“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” the IRS cautioned this week as they warn residents to be on alert for scammers as tax season approaches.
According to the IRS, in recent years, thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams and fake IRS communication. This week, the IRS issued an alert, warning of several tax scams and consumer alerts.
“The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry have urged tax professionals and taxpayers to be on guard against suspicious activity, especially email scams requesting last-minute deposit changes for refunds or account updates.”
In an effort to combat email or phishing scams, tax professionals have been encouraged to change and strengthen email passwords and verbally reconfirm any change of address or direct deposit change to a refund with a client.
Taxpayers have been encouraged to recognize attempts at phishing, and to be suspicious if sensitive data such as passwords, Social Security numbers or bank accounts are requested. Anyone that receives a suspicious email can contact the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country, the IRS noted. Callers will claim to be employees of the organization using fake names and fake IRS identification badge numbers. They tend to know a lot about their victims and can alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS is calling.
“Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Or, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn't answered, the scammers often leave an ‘urgent’ callback request.”
The IRS notes it will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
“The IRS doesn't initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. In addition, IRS does not threaten taxpayers with lawsuits, imprisonment or other enforcement action. Being able to recognize these telltale signs of a phishing or tax scam could save you from becoming a victim.”
The complete list of tax scams and consumer alerts can be found here.
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