Understanding Tax Scams
by Antonio Ristaino on Feb 23, 2022
With tax season well underway, tax scams are likely to become more prevalent. Criminals running phishing scams will impersonate the IRS or other federal agency in an attempt to steal your money or identity. These messages may contain alarming language that pressures you into sharing your information.
If you’re unsure if a message you’ve received is legitimate or fraud, here are some red flags to watch out for.
Asks for Personal or Financial Information
The IRS will never initiate contact with you via email, phone, text, or social media asking for personal or financial info. If they do initiate contact, it will be by mail through the U.S. Postal Service. There are some circumstances where the IRS will call or come to your home or business, but generally, you’ll receive several notices in the mail first.
If you receive a phone call or email asking for your information, do not respond. Scammers may attempt to use your identity to file a tax return in your name or cause other financial hardships. Instead, check the IRS website to learn the best way to report the message.
Attempts to Look “Legitimate”
Fraudulent emails will go to great lengths to appear like the real thing. They may use a federal agency’s logos, watermarks, and style the emails to look like official emails. If you receive a suspicious email, do not click any links or open any attachments. The same applies to text and social media messages.
Phone scammers can mask their caller ID to look like an IRS office or other federal agency. The caller may also provide a fake badge number to seem more legitimate. If this happens, take a note of the badge number so you can add it to your report.
Creates a Sense of Urgency
Phone scammers usually leave pre-recorded voicemails that ask you to call back immediately. These messages often contain threats to bring in law enforcement if you don’t respond. Scammers may also pressure you to pay over the phone and ask for credit or debit card numbers, gift cards, or wire transfers.
The IRS will never ask for payment over the phone. Generally, they will send you a bill in the mail. Also, as part of your rights as a taxpayer, the IRS allows you to question or appeal your owed amounts.
Have you received a suspicious message claiming to be the IRS? Here’s what to do:
- If it’s a phone call, hang up and do not give them your personal information
- If it’s an email or text, do not reply to the message. Do not open any links or attachments
- Make a note of the date and time you received the message
- Report the message to the IRS: https://www.irs.gov/privacy-disclosure/report-phishing
To learn more about different phishing schemes, visit the IRS website.
Please consult your tax professional regarding your specific situation.
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