Nothing makes a person’s blood run colder than finding out you have been scammed out of your personal information and thousands of dollars. In this day and age, scammers are lurking everywhere to find their next targets. Your accountant does everything in their power to keep your taxes confidential from outside sources and is diligently on the lookout for scams to avoid.
Here are some ways you can protect yourself by learning about 5 common IRS tax scams and how to spot them.
1. Economic Impact Payment Scams
The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a slew of new IRS tax scams. One prevalent scam to avoid involves Economic Impact Payments. At this point in time, almost all persons eligible for Economic Impact Payments have already claimed them on their 2020 or 2021 taxes.
If you receive an unsolicited phone call, text message, or email regarding information needed to process your Economic Impact Payment, hang up or do not respond. Certainly do not offer any bank account information or data verification.
If you are concerned that you have not received an Economic Impact Payment, reach out to your accountant and they can review your prior year taxes.
2. University Scams
Teach your teenagers and young adults about IRS tax scams and how to spot them. Scammers have recently been targeting higher education institutions, sending emails to email addresses ending in “.edu” and impersonating the IRS. The email requests the recipient to click on a link and fill out a form to claim a refund on their taxes.
Remind your children to stop and think before clicking on links. They should always think twice before giving someone their Social Security Number, driver’s license number, bank account information, or PIN as these are often scams to avoid.
3. Abusive Threat Scams
Have you ever received a phone call threatening to cut your power or put you in jail if you do not respond right away? Scammers often use fear to cause their prey to act first and think later.
Below are a couple of examples of abuse threat IRS tax scams and how to spot them:
- Phone call claiming you owe taxes and pressuring you to send them the funds via prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer.
- Phone call threatening to send the police to your home or work to arrest you if you do not pay what they say you owe.
Be aware that scammers may “spoof” or copy your caller ID and make it seem as if they are calling from certain locations. Yes – even from an IRS office!
4. Phishing Scams
Scammers are brazenly impersonating the IRS in emails touting an official IRS logo, trying to trick recipients into revealing personal information that will allow them to steal their identity. The emails can be about a taxpayer’s refund, electronic return, or tax transcripts. These phishing emails contain links often for a “temporary password” or “one-time password” so that the taxpayer can claim the refund.
NEVER click on a link in an email from the IRS. The IRS does not communicate by email about refunds or anything involving your personal tax information. Clicking on a link in one of these phishing emails can download a file that could provide spammers access to your personal information.
5. Offer in Compromise Scams
Owing the IRS money can be daunting. There are companies trying to scam taxpayers by offering to resolve unpaid taxes on the taxpayer’s behalf with the IRS. They claim they can reduce your tax liability with the IRS – for a fee.
Forego the astronomical commissions and call the IRS yourself to resolve unpaid taxes. These companies cannot get a better deal than you can on your own. Some make promises of Offers in Compromise that the IRS will not be able to deliver, for the IRS will only accept reduced settlements under certain circumstances.
If you do not feel comfortable calling the IRS alone, have your accountant join you on the line to put you at ease.
How do you know you are communicating with the real IRS?
The IRS will never contact you via phone, email, text message, or social media requesting personal or financial information. If you need assistance determining if communication is coming from the real IRS, contact your accountant to advise you.
What do you do if you come across an IRS scam?
The IRS wants to know about any IRS scams you come across as they often update their website with the newest IRS tax scams and how to spot them. If you receive a text, email, phone call, or social media notification from someone impersonating an IRS agent, send an email to email@example.com.
Include the following information in your email:
- Type of communication received
- Date and time of communication
- Phone number the scammer used (if applicable)
- Screenshot of information included in message
Remember to Stop & Think
If you are aware of these 5 IRS tax scams and how to spot them, you can save yourself a lot of fear and money in the long run. Remember to always stop and think before responding. If you have questions about any communication from the IRS, do not interact with an email in any way and hang up the phone. Reach out to your accountant for further guidance. They can advise you and they are authorized to deal with the IRS on your behalf. Their goals are to prepare your taxes well and always keep your information secure.