Avoiding Tax Season Scams

Tax time is a prime season for scam artists, who take advantage of tax-filing anxiety and use it as an opportunity to steal your money or personal information. And scam artists may be particularly aggressive this year because of confusion surrounding the new tax law signed in December. Watch out for the following:

Impersonating the IRS. Scam artists frequently call claiming to be from the IRS, sometimes even spoofing their caller ID to look like it’s from Washington, D.C., or your state department of revenue. They may say you owe money and need to send it immediately to fend off being sued or arrested. The crooks may ask for your credit-card number or ask you to wire the money or send a prepaid debit card or gift card. That may sound silly, but some victims comply. Know this: the IRS doesn’t initiate contact through phone or email (if you owe money, you’ll receive a notice from the IRS in the mail first). The agency does not demand that you pay taxes without a chance to question or appeal the amount they say you owe, does not ask you to wire funds or send debit cards, and does not threaten taxpayers with lawsuits or imprisonment.

Phishing email scams. You may receive an email that looks like official correspondence from the IRS asking for your bank account information to direct-deposit your refund, or it may include a link to a website that looks legitimate but is just a way to gather your information to steal your money or identity. Or you may receive an email claiming to be from your tax software company or tax professional, asking for information related to your refund or confirming personal information. The email may ask you to update your “IRS e-file information immediately” to prevent a delay of your refund. Don’t fall for it. The IRS will not send an email asking for personal or financial information. You can report IRS phishing scams to phishing@irs.gov.

Tax ID fraud. Thieves who get your Social Security number and other personal information can file a fraudulent tax return in your name and get your refund. The earlier you file your tax return, the better to beat the thieves to your money.

For more information about recent tax scams, see the IRS’s website: www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-scams-consumer-alerts.


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