At this time of year, criminals love to impersonate IRS agents. Scammers use the anxiety many of us feel surrounding our taxes to trick us into giving up our personal information. Falling victim to a scam during tax season can result in identity theft, financial loss, and other long-term, serious consequences.
The IRS website offers a rundown of all the scams you might encounter during tax season. Here are five of the most common tax scams you should learn how to spot.
IRS imposter scams
One of the most familiar tax scams is contact by someone pretending to work for the IRS. It may occur by phone, email, postal mail, or text message. In one popular scam, a phone call or letter will claim that you owe taxes and demand you pay with a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. Another tactic is a suspicious email or text asking you to verify your personal information through a link that leads to a fraudulent form or website.
The pandemic emergency may be over, but criminals are still using COVID-19 to steal money and information. Some scams to watch out for include Economic Impact Payment and unemployment benefit scams. Be on the lookout for the latter this season, which may come in the form of a false Form 1099-G.
A new version of the SSN scam
Scams targeting Social Security Numbers run rampant throughout the year. In the latest iteration, thieves attempt to frighten you into returning their “robocall” voicemails by claiming they will suspend or cancel your SSN. Telltale signs of this scam include messages that demand payment using a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer or requests to make payment to a person or organization other than the U.S. Treasury.
The tax transcript scam
Another recent scam that’s become a favorite of thieves is the tax transcript scam. You may receive an email with “Tax Transcripts” in the subject line. The email includes an attachment that is malware. Don’t open it! This malware will infect your computer network and steal your personal and financial information.
Scams targeting educational institutions
The IRS has warned students and staff at financial institutions to be on the lookout for scams targeting .edu email addresses. This impersonation scam occurs through emails with subject lines like “Tax Refund Payment” or “Recalculation of your tax refund payment.” The link in this email is a phishing attempt to gain personal information, such as your Social Security Number, driver’s license number, date of birth, and more.
You can take several precautions to avoid falling for a tax scam.
Be wary of suspicious emails or messages
The IRS will not initiate contact by phone, email, text message, or social media to request personal or financial information. The IRS will always send a written notice before making contact by phone or email. If you receive an unsolicited call or email, do not provide any personal information and make a report to the appropriate authorities.
Use secure communication and storage
During tax season and beyond, it’s important to avoid sending personal and financial information over unsecured networks or through email. It’s also best practice to use strong passwords and do not share them with others.
Choose a trustworthy tax preparer
When you’re selecting a tax preparer, make sure they have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Reputable tax preparers will also be certified by a professional organization like the National Association of Enrolled Agents or the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Tax season is a prime time for scammers to take advantage of unsuspecting people. Awareness of common scams and taking precautions to avoid falling victim will help you protect your personal and financial information and escape the long-term consequences of identity theft.
Protect yourself against identity theft
The best protection against identity theft is prevention. Marine Credit Union offers many tools to help you regularly monitor your account activity, including our free Marine Mobile App, e-alerts, and e-statements. Learn more about identity theft and how to protect yourself.
Sometimes, even the most vigilant among us can fall victim to a conniving criminal. Learn what to do if you fall for a scam or if you think your identity may have been stolen.
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