State tax agencies, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the tax industry are warning about phishing scams designed to trick last-minute tax filers.
With less than a month until taxes are due, tax-related scams are peaking according to the IRS. Taxpayers and tax professionals need to be alert to suspicious activity.
One new scam targets tax preparers. Thieves posing as taxpayers send emails to their tax preparers requesting last-minutes changes to refund destinations. Thieves often direct refunds to different mailing addresses or prepaid debit cards. The IRS urges tax preparers to confirm any such requests verbally with the taxpayer.
Other scams target taxpayers. Emails are sent to taxpayers, allegedly from their tax-software providers. They ask the taxpayer to update their online accounts. When updating, sensitive information is divulged, such as social security numbers, passwords or credit card and bank account numbers. The IRS asks taxpayers to be on guard for calls or texts from scammers posing as tax software providers and banks or credit card companies. If you’re doubtful, assume it’s a scam.
If you receive suspicious emails claiming to be from the IRS or your tax-software provider, the IRS is encouraging you to forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t ever open a link or attachment from a suspicious or unknown source – it could infect your computer with malware or try to steal your information.
Remember, the IRS will never:
- Direct you to use a certain tax payment method, like a prepaid debit card.
- Call and demand phone payment or call about taxes owed without mailing you several bills beforehand.
- Ask for financial or personal information, like social security numbers, via phone or email in order to verify your identity.
- Demand you pay taxes without allowing you to question or appeal the amount.
- Request debit or credit card numbers via phone or email.
- Threaten to have you arrested by law enforcement for not paying.
The tax industry, state tax agencies and the IRS, acting as the Security Summit, have enacted many identity theft safeguards for 2017. One of them is the new 16-digit verification code now appearing on certain W-2 forms. But, the IRS warns that cybercrime continues to evolve and create sophisticated new scams to fool people into providing sensitive data, such as social security numbers.
Be alert this tax season and keep your personal information safe. Don’t fall for any tricks. Protect yourself from identity theft related tax fraud.