Tax season is prime time for online scams. Cybercriminals are looking to cash in by stealing your identity and getting their hands on your tax refund.
In 2018, the Internal Revenue Service noted a 60% increase in bogus email schemes that try to steal money and tax data. The IRS sees so many tax scams that they annually compile the “Dirty Dozen”, a list of common underhanded plots that taxpayers may encounter anytime, but that peak during tax filing season.
Here’s a few of the items on the list and the IRS’ recommendations to stay safe from each type of threat:
- Phishing. Be on the lookout for potential fake email and websites posing as the IRS and trying to steal your personal information. The IRS will never initiate contact with taxpayers via email. Don’t take the bait. Learn more.
- Phone scams. The IRS has seen increased cases of criminals impersonating IRS agents over the phone. These scammers threaten taxpayers with police action, license revocation and even deportation if they don’t immediately comply with their demands. The IRS never demands that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed. And, if the caller asks for payment to be made to an entity other than the United States Treasury, the payment is not going to the IRS! If you get one of these heavy-handed calls, hang up. Read more.
- Tax pro fraud. While most tax preparers are professionals and provide honest service, some don’t. The IRS recommends that you verify the tax professional’s IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Legitimate tax return preparers are required to register with the IRS, have a PTIN and include it on all returns they prepare. Find out more.
The bottom line is fraudsters and cyber criminals prey on those who are uninformed regarding how the IRS communicates with taxpayers or those who are less security-minded when dealing with email and other online interactions. Always remember your personal information is like money: value it, protect it.
To learn more about how to stay secure during tax time, check out these resources:
- How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door
- Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts web page (maintained by the IRS)