Tax season is once again upon us and that means it is time to file your yearly return. While most people don’t consider tax season their favorite time of year, one group of scammers takes advantage of the large amount of personal information that exchanges hands in order to steal your refund or your identity. It is important to educate yourself on the methods that scammers will use to target your information and tax return so that you don’t find yourself playing the victim this year. We’ve included a few of the common methods used by thieves to steal your refund below.
How does it happen?
1. Tax return hijacking
In this popular scam, a thief submits a tax return using your identity in order to have your refund given to him. This scam typically flies under the radar until the compromised person attempts to file their legitimate return, at which time they are notified that they’ve already filled out a return for that year.
2. Fake tax collection
Another common scam is fake tax collection efforts. This scam relies on a fake letter, email, phone call, or other form of communication to attempt to obtain money from the victim. The thieves behind this method will rely on severe threats like jail time, loss of house, and more to attempt to make their victim set aside their better judgement and act immediately.
3. Theft of identifying information
This scam can stand alone or be connected to a fake tax collection effort. In either case, someone claiming to be a member of the IRS will ask you for your personal identifying information or for access to your bank account. This scam can expose your social security number or personal banking information and set you up for future scams in the years to come.
Who is at risk?
Tax-related scams are especially dangerous because nearly everyone in the country is a potential target. Those that are in the largest amount of danger are individuals that are not familiar with the ways that the IRS operates and the warning signs for the various tax collection scams. These scams rely on confusion and fear in order to be successful, so if you are targeted by someone threatening you in regard to your taxes, take a breath and contact the IRS.
How do I protect myself?
The best way to protect yourself is with knowledge, diligence, and a healthy dose of skepticism. The IRS maintains an official webpage outlining specific scams that they are receiving reports of. If you are unsure about someone claiming to be an IRS official, checking some of the current scams on this page is a good place to start. Additionally, it is important to know that the IRS does their business through the postal service and will not call, text, email, or appear in person without contacting you through the mail first. The IRS does not call to demand immediate payment and will not threaten to revoke your driver’s license or any other credential. The IRS outlines more ways to identify official communications on their website.
If you believe that you may have been targeted by an attempted scam contact the IRS through their IRS impersonation scam reporting portal.
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