Financial Topics & Tips
Tax Season Brings Out Tax-Related ID Theft Scams:
Ways to Avoid Falling for Them
Here’s a gentle reminder that it is indeed tax season. While the actual day you have to submit your return is not until April, you should start gathering those tax documents now and file your return as soon as possible. This applies whether you are getting a refund or have to pay up. Once you file, a criminal cannot use your identity to file a claim, the IRS will immediately reject it as a duplicate filing. So if the scammer files a fake claim with your information first, it is a nightmare to get resolved.
Criminals wanting to deposit your tax return in their accounts or steal your identity are upping their game starting now. Those age-old IRS tax scams and likely some new ones will resurface, perhaps with a vengeance, for the next few months. And 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 that ever-so-personal number out of taxpayers. There are three main ways they do this; filing fraudulent returns, phone scams (vishing), and the ever so popular email or text message phishing.
Here are a few examples that may show up this tax season:
1. Phony IRS agents call you up and inform you that you owe taxes. They come up with some 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 (SSN).
2. You receive an email with a link that directs you to an official looking website asking you to update your IRS information. Of course, 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 SSN, your credit or debit card number (for paying any tax due), address, etc.
4. Someone “official” shows up at your door unexpectedly and presents you with a badge that looks like it could be an IRS agent. You are told you owe taxes and her or she is there to collect payment or to take you to jail if you don’t pay.
Of course all of these are fake. The IRS has protocols in place for communicating with taxpayers and one thing you can be sure of is that no one from the agency 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 US Postal Service.
The IRS also 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 cards.
• Ask for payment card information over the phone.
• Threaten to have you arrested for failure to pay any tax or fee.
According to the IRS, last tax season there was a 400% increase in phishing and malware incidents. The agency detected 35,000 fraudulent returns and prevented nearly $194 million from being issued fraudulently, as well. So once again, file early, because the IRS only accepts one filing per SSN. 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 (FTC). More information can be found on the IRS and FTC websites.
TTCU is offering members a discount on TurboTax Federal products through its secure link and website. Learn more.
Reprinted with permission. © Copyright 2017 Stickley on Security, January 30, 2017