According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), thousands fall prey to IRS scams every year, accounting for millions of dollars lost. Scammers often take advantage of the fact that tax season is a high-stress time of year to trick people into giving them financial or personal information. Continue reading to learn how to recognize and avoid IRS scams this year.
Common IRS Scams
IRS scams typically occur when criminals impersonate IRS agents, debt collectors or government officials to convince individuals to send them money or personal information. Every year, the IRS compiles a list of the most common taxpayer scams, known as the Dirty Dozen. Here are a few examples:
- Phishing—Criminals impersonate reputable companies or government agencies via text, email or social media posts to try and get sensitive information, passwords, payment information or account details.
- Fraudulent phone calls—Scammers pretending to be the IRS calling to say you owe money for taxes. During these calls, scammers may try to get you to send money with a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. They may also threaten you with arrest or other punishments if you don’t comply.
Avoiding IRS Scams
Here are tips for recognizing and avoiding IRS scams:
- Identity theft—Criminals illegally obtain your tax login information and use it to steal your personal and financial information. In some cases, scammers may file a fraudulent tax return, have a refund deposited in your account and demand you forward the money to their “collection agency.”
Reporting IRS Scams
If you believe you’ve been a victim of an IRS scam, contact your financial institution immediately and ask to close any affected accounts. Report identity theft at IdentityTheft.gov and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
- Remember that the IRS will not contact you via email, social media or other digital channels.
- Pay attention to any missing tax documents, bills or expected letters that should’ve been delivered by mail, as this may be a sign of identity fraud.
- Create strong passwords to make it more difficult for criminals to gain access to your accounts.
- Don’t access tax-related documents over public Wi-Fi. Use a secure private network connection instead.
- Research accountants or tax preparers ahead of time to ensure they’re legitimate.
- Listen for threats. The IRS will not threaten to arrest, punish or deport you.