Avoid Tax Season ID Theft Scams

Tax Scam 2017If you file a tax return, the IRS is urging taxpayers to start gathering their tax documents now and file a return as soon as possible.

This applies whether you are getting a refund or owe tax money to the federal or state government.

Once you file your tax return, a criminal cannot use your identity to file a claim, since the IRS will immediately reject it as a duplicate filing. If a scammer files a fake claim with your information first, it can be a nightmare to get resolved.

One of the best tips to avoid becoming a victim of tax-related identity theft is to file early.

The IRS defines tax-related identity theft as occurring “when someone uses your social security number to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund.” Scammers have many tricks to try and get a taxpayer’s social security number. There are three main ways they do this: filing fraudulent returns, phone scams (vishing), and email or text message phishing.

Here are a few examples that may show up this tax season that you will want to avoid:

  1. Phony IRS agent calls and informs you that you owe taxes. They come up with an official sounding “tax” you owe or they say you are owed a big refund. All you have to do is confirm your social security number.
  2. You receive an email with a link that directs you to an official looking website asking you to update your IRS information. Included in that information is your social security number.
  3. You receive an email with a link directing you to a website that asks you to verify your e-file information for the IRS. This information includes your social security number, your credit or debit card number (for paying any tax due), address, etc. 
  4. Someone “official” shows up at your door unexpectedly and shows you a badge that looks like it could be an IRS agent.  You are told you owe taxes and that the agent is there to collect payment or take you to jail, if you don’t pay.

Important to Remember

The IRS will never:

  • Demand payment immediately, without giving you the opportunity to appeal or discuss it.
  • Require a payment method of wire transfer, pre-paid debit card, or gift card.
  • Ask for payment card information over the phone.
  • Threaten to have you arrested for failure to pay any tax or fee.

All of these examples are scams. The IRS has protocols in place for communicating with taxpayers. No one from the IRS will initiate communication with you using email, the telephone, social media, or by showing up at your door. They will first send a letter by the U.S. Postal Service.

According to the IRS, last tax season there was a 400 percent increase in phishing and malware incidents.  The agency detected 35,000 fraudulent returns and prevented nearly $194 million from being issued fraudulently, as well.  File early.  The IRS only accepts one filing per social security number. Beat the crooks to it.

If you have been a victim of tax-related identity theft, contact the IRS directly and complete “IRS Form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit.” In addition, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. More information can be found on the IRS and FTC websites.