January News Article

Are You Ready for Tax Season?

Regardless of whether or not you are ready, you can bet that tax identity theft scammers are. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number (SSN) to file a phony tax return and claim your refund. Imposters call pretending to be from the IRS claiming you owe taxes. They demand you pay them immediately, usually with a gift card or prepaid debit card. They may threaten you will be arrested if you don’t pay them. This is all a lie.

You can fight tax identity theft by remembering the following:

  • The IRS does not demand payment via gift or debit cards.
  • Protect your SSN throughout the year. Don’t give it out unless there is a very good reason to do so and you are sure who you are giving it too.
  • File your tax return as early in the tax season as you can!
  • Use secure internet connections if you file electronically.

Keep an eye out for the following scams this tax season!

The Canceled Social Security Number

  1. You receive an automated phone call notifying you of overdue taxes,threatening to suspend or cancel your SSN.
  2. They leave a message demanding that you call them back.
  3. This is an attempt by scammers to frighten you into returning the “robocall” voicemail left on your phone, hoping to trick you into calling the number back. The IRS does not leave pre-recorded, urgent or threatening messages.

This is 100% a scam! According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), your SSN will never get suspended. Plus, the IRS ONLY contacts taxpayers through mail or in-person. Never by email or phone.

The IRS Impersonation Email

The most common way scammers steal identities or account passwords is simply by asking for it through phishing emails. You might receive an email claiming to be from the IRS, either reminding you to file your taxes or offering you information about your refund. Some of these emails will contain illegitimate links leading you to spoofed sites. These sites collect any information you input, facilitating identity theft.

Remember, don’t take the bait – Recognize and avoid phishing emails.

  • These tricky scams often pose as companies you know and trust, including places like the IRS.
  • These emails tell an urgent story to trick you into opening a link or an attachment, which can lead to adding a virus or spyware onto your computer.

Fake Tax Agency

This scam involves the mailing of an actual letter threatening an IRS lien or levy. They base this threat on bogus delinquent taxes owed to a non-existent agency, ”Bureau of Tax enforcement.” The letter even references the IRS to further trick you into thinking the letter is legitimate.

NOTE: There is no such agency, it is totally bogus. While these letters look legit, the Bureau of Tax Enforcement does not exist.

While you shouldn’t ignore mail from the IRS, make sure it’s real. Official letters will always have a seal and a letter/notice number. You can also call the IRS directly to verify the information. Remember, if you decide to call, don’t call the number on the fake letter, as it could connect you to the scammers. Instead, look up the number online.

Know the Signs of Tax Identity Theft

Much of your personal information can be gathered online from sources like social media or past data breaches. Scammers know this, so they gather pieces of your personal information (SSN, login credentials, DOB, etc.) from a variety of sources and use the information to file a fake tax return for you!

Be alert to possible tax-related identity theft if you:

  • Get a letter from the IRS inquiring about a suspicious tax return that you did not file.
  • Can’t e-file your tax return because of a duplicate Social Security number.
  • Get a tax transcript in the mail that you did not request.
  • Get an IRS notice that an online account has been created in your name.
  • Get an IRS notice that your existing online account has been accessed or disabled when you took no action.
  • Get an IRS notice that you owe additional tax or refund offset, or that you have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.
  • Received wages or other income from an employer you did not work for, according to IRS records.

What if Tax Identity Theft Happens to You?

Visit IdentityTheft.gov to report tax identity theft to the IRS and the FTC and get a personal recovery plan. IdentityTheft.gov helps you complete and file an IRS Identity Theft Affidavit (Form 14039) online as your first step to recovery.