5 Warning Signs to Look Out For
For U.S. residents, April is practically synonymous with Tax Season. April also ushers in an increase in activities from scammers and thieves, as tax season presents criminals with opportunities to steal identities, tax refunds and all sorts of personal information.
Your intuition and common sense are your first line of defense against tax scams. Unfortunately, scammers have so much data (and technology) at their disposal that it is hard to tell whether the voice on the other end of the phone is legitimate – the “agent” may be calling from an official-looking number on your caller ID, may have personal data about you, or may have sent an official-looking communication to your private email as part of a phishing scheme. If you do hear from someone who identifies himself or herself as an IRS agent, here are some things the IRS recommends you look out for:
- The IRS will NEVER call you or demand immediate payment without first mailing you a bill. If someone calls you, ask to see a copy of the bill they mailed to your address of record.
- You have the right to question or appeal the amount you owe. The IRS will not demand payment before you have had this opportunity.
The IRS will not require you to use a specific payment method such as pre-paid debit card, credit card, etc. They also do not take credit or debit card numbers over the phone. If an “agent” is asking you to use a specific payment method and/or asking for a debit or credit card number you should NOT give in to their efforts at getting this information from you. This is an IMMEDIATE red flag. You are not on the phone with an IRS agent. This is someone attempting to scam you out of your money.
- IRS agents will not threaten you with arrest by local police for unpaid taxes. The IRS has built a taxpayer “Bill of Rights” that explains the rights we all have when working with the IRS. You can fin that information here: https://www.irs.gov/taxpayer-bill-of-rights.
- The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers electronically (email, text, social media) to request personal or financial information. If you receive electronic communication from an “agent,” you can report the scam to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you believe you are being targeted by a scammer, DO NOT provide ANY personal or banking information to the scammer, hang up immediately, and report the indecent to 800-366-4484 or to the IRS impersonation Scam Report website at: https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml
Remember, the best defense against crime is to be aware of your surroundings. Identity theft is no different. Take advantage of software that uses encryption, firewalls and/or anti-virus protection, and use strong passwords. Do not access sensitive information over public internet signals, open attachments from unknown email sources, or share payment information over the phone with someone claiming to be an agent of the IRS. The tax filing process is painful enough; there is no need to add to the angst by taking chances with your security.
Have questions about your return? Give Wicks Emmett a call.