Has this happened to you? Your phone rings, when you pick up your phone you see an unfamiliar number, upon answering, you hear a recording stating that you are being investigated by the IRS and you must pay a fine immediately… or else. A call like this can be unsettling. And unfortunately, too many people suffer identity theft and loss of funds due to similar scams each year. The best way to prepare yourself and the ones you love is to learn about what scams are out there and what you need to do to protect yourself.
MOST PREVALENT IRS SCAMS:
Phishing: Fake emails or websites created to look like the IRS but are intended to steal personal information.
Phone Scams: In recent years, there has been a surge in nefarious calls to unsuspecting taxpayers. These criminals impersonate IRS agents and threaten taxpayers with police arrest, deportation, license revocation and more.
Identity Theft: Criminals filing fraudulent tax returns using someone else’s social security number.
Return Preparer Fraud: Each tax season, criminals will set up shop to prepare taxes and glean information from the returns. They often promise low cost and high payback from the government if you work with them. These criminals often use advertising and phony storefronts to gain the trust of unsuspecting taxpayers.
Fake Charities: Be vigilant when it comes to making charitable donations. Fake charities will encourage you to donate, promising that you will be able to deduct the donation from your taxes. But when tax season comes around, their information will not be correct according to the IRS.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM FRAUD
Stay vigilant: Keep on top of the latest IRS scams in the news and on the IRS website. Staying informed is the best way to ensure you are protected from fraud.
Remember, the IRS will never:
- Demand that taxes be paid immediately without giving the taxpayer a chance to research the issue
- Demand immediate payment using a specific payment method like a debit card.
- Ask for a credit or debit card number over the phone.
- Threaten to immediately call local authorities or other law enforcement groups to arrest the taxpayer.
- Contact taxpayers about an amount due or refund through email. Do not click on an email claiming to be from the IRS.
File with someone trustworthy: When you are ready to file your taxes, chose a preparer with a good, longstanding reputation. Be very mindful of those who pop-up overnight and proclaim that they can give you a bigger tax return.
Select charities you know and trust: When deciding which non-profit causes to support, choose ones that you know well and are passionate about. The IRS website also has tools available for taxpayers to check out the status of a charity before donating.
If you receive a suspicious email or phone call from someone stating to be the IRS, be sure to note their contact information and report the contact to the IRS. For more about how to report suspected IRS fraud, visit the IRS website.