While tax season may only be three and a half months long, scammers are working constantly all throughout the year, to take advantage of honest taxpayers. It is important for anyone filing taxes to know the signs of suspicious activity, as these scams can evolve every year. If you feel like you were targeted by potential criminal activity it is important to contact the IRS immediately and report it.
A phishing scam is an extremely popular attempt to fraudulently gain access to a taxpayers’ personal information. Phishing is generally done through email, and can be rather tricky for one to identify as the email will appear to come from a well-known source. The IRS will never initiate contact with requests for personal information through email or text message. If you feel you have received a suspicious email regarding tax information, follow these guidelines.
- Never reply to any suspicious emails requesting personal information
- Do not open any attachments or follow any links within the email
- Forward the email as is, including all headers to email@example.com and the FTC at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phishing text messages can be reported to “SPAM” (7726)
- Delete the email/text message off of your computer and mobile device
Another frequent scam attempted is over the phone. Most popularly a caller will pose as an IRS or treasury worker, and try to solicit money out of unsuspecting tax payers. The caller will generally inform the victim of a debt that they owe and request a payment over the phone. It is important to remember the IRS will always initially contact you through a mailing. If you think you are being targeted through a scam over the phone, reference the list below to protect yourself and your finances.
- Ask the caller for their name, employee badge number, and make note of any other specific information regarding the call (time, date, phone number)
- Review your account information online and reference with the information provided for you over the phone
- If you suspect the communication to be fraudulent, report it by email to email@example.com and also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
Taxpayers should also beware of scams that occur around areas affected by severe weather. For example, after Hurricane Florence and Harvey, 2018 saw a rise in these crimes across America. Scammers tried to pose as legitimate charitable organizations, over the phone and online to beseech funds from people trying to help those in need. On the other hand, scammers will pose as an IRS worker and reach out to victims to file fraudulent loss claims.
- Contribute to charity through check or credit card – avoid using cash
- Be cautious of organizations soliciting donations and asking for personal finance information
- Reach out and identify the organization on your own through the IRS websites Tax Exempt Organization Search (link)