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IRS Warns of Tax-Time Scams
For many, tax time is the season of refunds. But it also can be the season of scams, as scammers attempt to get consumers to give them financial information. This year, the IRS is warning about three scams:
IRS impersonation phone scam. Scammers call and say they are from the IRS and you owe money to the agency; if you do not pay immediately through a preloaded debit card or wire transfer, you will be arrested. Alternatively, they might say that you are due a refund that will be sent immediately to you if you provide financial information such as your bank account numbers. If you don’t answer the phone, they might leave an “urgent” message for you to call them back.
These callers usually look and sound official. The caller ID probably shows as the IRS. Callers often know a lot about their victims and might become threatening or hostile. Recent immigrants are a particular target of this scam, although it can be directed at anyone.
The IRS reminds taxpayers that the agency never calls to demand an immediate payment. Generally, the IRS first sends a letter explaining any money it thinks you might owe, and you have an opportunity to dispute the findings of the IRS. The agency never asks for personal financial information such as credit card or bank numbers.
Email, phishing and malware scams. In these, scammers use the IRS logo and fake IRS email addresses to send a variety of kinds of message that eventually ask for personal financial information and Social Security numbers. Some also include a link to a fake IRS site to “update your tax information.” The URL for the site is often either USA.gov or IRSgov (with no dot between IRS and gov); the actual IRS website is https://www.IRS.gov. Visiting a phony site can introduce malware to your computer as well as providing the scammers with information that can harm you. This kind of scheme also can be carried out via text message.
These scams occur at any time but are especially common this time of year. In fact, the IRS reported a 400 percent increase in phishing and malware during the 2016 tax season. If you receive an email or text message asking for this kind of information, be very sure to check out the source.
Taxpayer Advocacy Panel scams. These work much like the phishing and malware scams above, but instead of appearing to come from the IRS, the communication appears to come from the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP), a group that advises the IRS. However, TAP never requests, and it does not have, access to personal and/or financial information from taxpayers.
These are not the only scams you might encounter during tax season – or at any time of the year. If you receive any communication that requests personal or financial information, always make sure that the source of the communication is legitimate.