Tax season is here and unfortunately, criminal activity involving tax scams is ramping up.
Most tax scams appear in 3 categories: Phone scams, fraudulent returns and phishing. Although not all fraudulent activity is preventable, you can take some steps to reduce your risk of being a tax scam victim.
Many of us have received phony calls from so-called "IRS agents." These types of phone scams have cost victims more than $23 million in just the past few years.
The caller will identify himself as an IRS agent and claim that you owe federal taxes. Another scam is when the caller states that you are entitled to a refund and asks for personal or bank information in order to steal your identity or your money.
It's important to know that the IRS will never call you for any reason without first mailing you a bill or letter. The IRS also will not demand taxes without allowing you an appeal and will not ask for a credit or debit card over the phone.
If you feel a call purportedly from the IRS is fraudulent, hang up right away and report your experience to the IRS at their scam reporting website. You can also call them at 800-829-1040 with any concerns.
Thieves would love to use your Social Security number and file a fraudulent tax return to get a refund based on your record.
Last year the IRS was able to prevent $193 million in fraudulent returns, but you must be cautious not to have your identity stolen:
- File your return as soon as possible - the IRS only accepts one tax return per Social Security number, so make sure yours gets there first.
- Retrieve your mail quickly from your mailbox, especially W-2s and1099s, to avoid theft.
- Share your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary.
- Check your credit report frequently for suspicious activity.
- Shred all papers containing banking information or your Social Security number.
Another type of tax fraud is in the form of phishing, or emails and texts that look like they come from the IRS. These can appear official and even link you to a fraudulent IRS website that looks very much like the real thing.
Again, the IRS will not contact you with an initial notification by email or a text message. Any official IRS webpage will begin with "irs.gov" - not irsgov, irs.net or irs.com.
If you are not expecting an email from the IRS and you do receive one, don't click on any links or attachments. You can forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org and just delete your original.
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