Tax season is one of the most prolific times of the year for scammers trying to take advantage of taxpayers who either need help calculating how much money they owe or are lucky enough to get some refunds they want to access as soon as possible. Con artists try to scam taxpayers out of their money in this period in many ways. They are either offering help with the tax reporting process or different opportunities to invest.
IRS Phone or Email Scams
Tax scams are more prevalent in the period when people file their returns to the IRS. These scams usually involve identity theft. Scammers who get hold of people’s personal information can file false returns and end up collecting money they don’t deserve. To achieve this, they use the last name people would associate with fraud – the IRS. Many stories of fake IRS emails have emerged in the news, especially during the past year. These emails have the IRS branding and are made to look as `official` as possible. Often, they are disguised as notifications about the recipient’s taxes. Somewhere in the email’s body, there is a link or button the recipient must click on to get the complete information they supposedly need. If they do so, malware programs or files are installed on their PC to collect personal data. Another way scammers operate is by directing people to different pages where they get asked to enter sensitive personal information in order to steal it. People should, at any rate, be reluctant to doing this if the page does not look like the official IRS website.
Other IRS scams involve people pretending to be IRS agents or debt collectors trying to intimidate people over the phone or by email and make them send money for penalties or taxes. These fraudulent attempts look legitimate as they have the IRS logo. Nevertheless, as a general rule, it’s good to keep in mind that this is not the typical way IRS contacts taxpayers. If the IRS has any notifications to send, they will do it through an official letter. People should be equally wary of phone calls, as the IRS is usually not calling taxpayers, and they do not ask for personal information such as your social security number.
Ghost Tax Scams
These scams target people who are not very familiar with the US tax system. Con artists who rely on ghost tax scams are basically trying to convince you to let them handle your taxes for you in return for a service fee. Besides the fact that these fees are usually more than what a legitimate company would ask for, the main problem is that taxpayers’ money often doesn’t end up in the rightful account. Even if they did, scammers use other tricks too in order to make more money. For example, they make mistakes that will increase the refund, which goes into their pockets. To avoid these fraudsters, you should work only with verified, certified professionals you can find plenty of information about.
Text Message Scams
Text message scams are also IRS-impersonating scams. In this case, you get a text message supposedly signed by the IRS. It urges you to download an app or access a link to find out information about your taxes or due refunds. Once you access those links, you let a piece of malware install itself on your mobile and steal your personal information. This method should also raise a red flag as the IRS never texts taxpayers. If you get any texts of this kind, you should report the number and message to the IRS, who can track the scam.
Inflate Return Scams
This scam involves telling people that they qualify for an increased return due to the current inflation rate. Preparers who do this often target people directly with this pitch, which should be an alarm sign. If the preparer hasn’t looked at your tax documents first, they can’t possibly know that you qualify for an inflated return. Although a higher return is possible in certain circumstances, due to inflation, there are only a few taxpayers who really qualify for it. Con artists who use this strategy try to get that return or a percentage of it after forcing you to file for the return.
These are just some of the most common scams taxpayers should be aware of, but the list unfortunately continues. To avoid becoming a victim, always be cautious when letting anyone else handle your taxes. Avoid texts, emails, or phones seemingly coming from the IRS, and report any attempt that looks like a scam to the IRS.