Tax Scams and Phishing

With apologies to Benjamin Franklin, nothing in this world can be said to be certain except death, taxes, and tax scams. As we enter the US tax preparation season, scams targeting taxpayers are in full swing. Here are some tips you can follow during tax season to keep scams from taxing you (See what I did there?):

  • If you receive an unsolicited phone call from the IRS, treat it with suspicion. The IRS will never use the phone as its first method of contact with you, and it will never make a phone call to demand immediate tax payment. If you receive an unsolicited phone call from the IRS, never share your personal information with the caller. Instead, collect as much information from the caller as possible, such as the reason for the call, case number, and employee badge number. Then, hang up and contact the IRS via the contact information posted on its website,
  • Treat unsolicited email or text messages from the IRS with suspicion as well. The IRS does not use email, text messages, or social media to discuss issues with taxpayers, and it will never request that you share personal information with the organization via these methods. The IRS initiates contact with taxpayers through mail delivered by the US Postal Service. If you receive an unsolicited electronic communication from the IRS, it is most likely a phishing scam designed to steal your personal information.
  • The IRS has rules and procedures that it must follow when it interacts with taxpayers. Signs of a scam include any contact claiming to be from the IRS. Tax scams often involve the following tactics:
    • Trying to collect a payment from you or get information from you in an overly aggressive, demanding, or even threatening way.
    • Asking you to make a tax payment to any entity other than the US Treasury.
    • Asking you to make a tax payment via a gift card or asking you for your credit card number over the phone or via email.
    • Threatening to immediately call the police to have you arrested for not paying your taxes.
  • If your personal information has been compromised by other entities (like in a data breach that exposes your personally identifiable information), tax scammers may get ahold of that information and use it to file a tax return on your behalf. You might find out that this has happened to you when you go to file your tax return and your return is rejected. If this happens to you, you may be a victim of tax-related identity theft. Tax-related identity theft happens when someone uses a stolen Social Security number (SSN) to file a fraudulent tax return to claim a refund. To investigate the situation, contact the IRS via the contact information posted on its website,
  • The IRS offers several resources to help you protect your personal information. You can visit Identity Theft Central to learn how to protect yourself and learn what to do if you are a victim of a tax-related scam.

Remember, many tax forms contain personally identifiable information and Social Security Numbers that should never be handled in email. If you’re collecting tax documents for your filing or assisting a family member with their taxes, check with our IT staff for recommendations about how you can protect your data online.