During this period when annual income tax returns are being prepared, there are a number of cons and scams that everyone should be aware of.
Taxpayers, businesses and tax pros need to be alert for a continuing “tricky and clever” surge of fake emails, text messages, websites and social media attempts to steal personal information. Watch out for emails and other scams posing as the IRS, promising a big refund or personally threatening people. Don’t open attachments or click on links in emails
Phone scams are another popular scam. Generally this involves aggressive criminals posing as IRS agents to steal money or personal information via phone scams or “vishing” (voice phishing). Beginning early in the filing season, the IRS generally sees an upswing in scam phone calls (often robo-calls) threatening arrest, deportation or license revocation if the victim doesn’t pay a bogus tax bill. These con artists may have some of the taxpayer’s information, including their address, the last four digits of their Social Security number or other details.
Despite what the IRS terms “a steep drop in tax-related identity theft in recent years,” they continue to caution that scams remains serious. Tax-related ID theft occurs when someone uses a stolen Social Security number or ITIN to file a fraudulent return claiming a refund – and thieves constantly strive to find a scheme that works. Once their ruse begins to fail as taxpayers become aware of their ploys, they change tactics. Business filers should be aware that cybercriminals also file fraudulent 1120S using stolen business identities.
Another common thing scam artists use are flyers, advertisements, phony storefronts or word-of-mouth to attract victims promising overly large refunds – using such tools as fictitious rebates, benefits or tax credits – and they frequently prey on older Americans and low-income taxpayers and those who don’t have a filing requirement.
The best advice we can give is, “tax filer beware”. If it seems to good to be true, it probably is. The IRS will not make any phone calls or email you in order to collect money. Contact a tax professional before proceeding with anything related to income taxes that is out of the ordinary.