The Internal Revenue Service has some advice for taxpayers this April Fool’s Day that may prevent them from being the victim of a tax scam: Don’t be fooled by scammers. Stay safe and be informed. Here are some of the most recent IRS-related scams to be on the lookout for:
Telephone Scams: Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain an ongoing threat. The IRS has seen a surge of these phone scams in recent years as scam artists threaten taxpayers with police arrest, deportation, license revocation and more. These con artists often demand payment of back taxes on a prepaid debit card or by immediate wire transfer. Be alert to con artists impersonating IRS agents and demanding payment.
Note that the IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment over the phone or call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill;
- 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;
- Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card;
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone; or
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
Scammers Changing Tactics: The IRS is receiving new reports of scammers calling under the guise of verifying tax return information over the phone. The latest variation on this scam uses the current tax filing season as a hook. Scam artists call saying they are from the IRS and have received your tax return, and they just need to verify a few details to process it. The scam tries to get you to give up personal information such as a Social Security number or personal financial information, such as bank numbers or credit cards.
Tax Refund Scam Artists Posing as TAP: In this new email scam targeting taxpayers, people are receiving emails that appear to come from the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel, a volunteer board that advises the IRS on issues affecting taxpayers. They try to trick you into providing personal and financial information. Do not respond or click the links in these emails. If you receive an email that appears to be from TAP regarding your personal tax information, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email, Phishing, and Malware Schemes: The IRS has seen an approximate 400 percent surge in phishing and malware incidents so far in the 2016 tax season. The emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. The phishing schemes can ask taxpayers about a wide range of topics. Emails can seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts, and verifying PI information.
Variations of these scams can be seen via text messages, and the communications are being reported in every section of the country.
When people click on these email links, they are taken to sites designed to imitate an official-looking website, such as IRS.gov. The sites ask for Social Security numbers and other personal information, which could be used to help file false tax returns. The sites also may carry malware, which can infect your computer and allow criminals to access your files or track your keystrokes to gain information.
If you get a ‘phishing’ email, the IRS offers this advice:
- Don’t reply to the message.
- Don’t give out your personal or financial information.
- Forward the email to email@example.com. Then delete it.
- Don’t open any attachments or click on any links. They may have malicious code that will infect your computer.
Howard Lipset, CPA
Progressive Management, Inc.