Tax filing deadlines are fast approaching, which means there are many Americans filing their returns to meet the April 18, 2017 deadline. Beware that there are many new scams on the rise to try to take your refund due. These scams may not only cost you your refund, they may result in a balance owed to the IRS and lingering identity theft issues that must be resolved.
One of the newer IRS scams is people pretending to be the taxpayer and sending various emails to your tax professional to try to get your refund redirected to a different account. Once your return has been prepared, these scammers will send an email requesting a last-minute change to where your refund should be sent. They often will request that the refund be paid out on pre-paid debit cards. Your tax preparer then makes this change before submitting your return, thinking that this was your request. It is not until after the refund has been issued and paid out that the taxpayer and preparer realize what has happened. At this point, it becomes the burden of the taxpayer to attempt to get their refund back. The IRS has issued a statement on this topic warning taxpayers to be careful during this filing season. You can follow this link to IRS Email Scams for more information. Make sure that you have discussed how you would like to receive your refund with you tax preparer and discuss that you would like any changes to that method confirmed with you in person or verbally over the phone.
Another scam currently effecting taxpayers involves scammers calling people and claiming to be the IRS. These scammers call random victims under the pretense that they are calling from the IRS. They then claim that there is an outstanding tax debt owed and demand that it be paid immediately. These calls are generally threatening and aggressive. The scammers demand that the victim make payments to avoid jail time and/or having their possessions seized to satisfy tax debt which may or may not even exist. They may claim that the sheriff is on the way to put you under arrest. They generally know basic knowledge about the person they are calling, such as their address. These scammers demand immediate payment over the phone, requesting that the person go and put money on a pre-paid card and provide them with the number over the phone.
One of the most deceptive scams currently being used is done through the process of ID spoofing. This is the effective translation of your caller ID to state the call is being place by an IRS phone number, even though it is from a fraudulent caller trying to take your money and information. The call will come through your phone showing a valid IRS collection number. The scammer will then provide a fictional IRS agent identification number and title to try to further persuade you that the call is legitimate. Once they have convinced you that they are a legitimate IRS agent, they will then request that you provide them with personal and confidential information, such as your Social Security Number, Date-of-Birth, address, bank account information, and information on any dependents you have; all of the information needed to steal your identity.
With scams at an all-time high and the cyber world growing at an exponential rate, it is more important than ever to avoid falling victim to these IRS scams. Whether or not a person owes back taxes, receiving a call stating that you do owe taxes and that you are going to be immediately arrested or have your property seized is a terrifying experience. Once your refund has been taken, or if you make a payment under a scam, it can be difficult, if not impossible to get it back. Having a scammer steal your identity can result in significant financial issues that may affect you for years. The IRS has an article on the internet to help you avoid falling victim to these traps. You can follow the link, IRS tax scams, to gain additional information on how these criminals operate, as well as how to make yourself prepared if you were to receive one of these calls.
With all of this being stated, there are some simple ways to avoid falling victim to these devastating tricks and traps used by IRS scammers. First, you should always be aware that the IRS will not call you and demand immediate payment. The IRS’s first attempt at contact is almost always through mail. You will receive a notice due bill in the mail to your address filed on your most recently filed tax return. You may dispute this amount if you do not agree with its accuracy or you believe it does not match the amount due from your return filed. If you receive a notice of a balance due from the IRS that you do not believe is correct, contact them immediately to make sure that someone has not filed a return under your Social Security Number, or that a return was not processed in error.
Second, the IRS also will not request your debit or credit card numbers over the phone. They have an online system which you can make direct payments for any balance you owe from the current or prior years at IRS.gov. While there are many options for how to pay your tax debt, the IRS does not accept payments over the phone.
When receiving a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, verify that they are who they say they are before providing them with any of your personal information. Tell the person that you are concerned about IRS scams and you will call the IRS directly to verify their information. Then, call the IRS yourself to determine if you have an outstanding balance and the contact information for the person handling your case. You can also do a quick internet search of the phone number calling you. Generally other people have listed these numbers online as a scam caller.
If you receive a call or email that is suspicious, make sure to contact your tax professional prior to making any changes to your return information or sending any funds. The IRS also recommends that you send any suspicious emails to them for review at firstname.lastname@example.org so they may continue to protect the integrity of their system. Lastly, you can contact the IRS directly for an account inquiry at (800) 829-1040 and speak to an IRS agent who will verify your current account balance. They will also be able to assist you with additional options on how to make payments to resolve your balance due.