You're not the only one who's busy at year end. With tax season upon us, scammers are working overtime to create new, slicker ways to trick you into divulging personal data in order to steal your money and identity. Watch out for these popular tricks aimed at catching you off guard.
Email scams take many forms, but the best ones come from email addresses that sound legitimate like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. They use the IRS logo with names and signatures of actual IRS executives. If you click on a link within the email, it takes you to a site that looks just like the official IRS website and asks you to provide personal information such as name, address, bank account number, PIN, social security number, or even your mother's maiden name or your place of birth. Often the emails contain misspellings or ungrammatical phrasing common to non-native English speakers, a red flag that it originates overseas. Some of the specific hooks they use to trick you include...
1. Economic Stimulus. The fraudster claims the government has just announced a new, easier way to receive refunds as part of the Economic Stimulus program. To take advantage of it, all you need to do is have your refund direct deposited through an online form. It adds a sense of urgency by saying refunds will be delayed if the online form is not completed by a certain date.
2. Take the survey. In this scam, you're invited to participate in an IRS customer satisfaction survey that pays you $80. It starts with standard questions but ends with asking for your account details so they can credit you the $80.
3. Return errors. This email states that your return has inaccuracies that will delay your refund. For example, your social security number filed does not match the IRS records, or you forgot to sign and date the return. You are asked to confirm personal details before the return can be accepted.
4. You're under investigation. This fraud preys on the fear of every tax-paying American - an IRS investigation. It claims the IRS suspects you of tax fraud and as part of its investigation it demands answers to personal data.
5. Additional refund due. This scheme claims you're owed a refund just discovered by a recent IRS recalculation. It's usually an odd, but legitimate-sounding amount like $156.29. In order to claim it, you must submit a form accessed via a link. Clicking on the link automatically downloads malware that enables crooks to spy and collect your passwords and logins.
If any of this happens to you, email the IRS at email@example.com to lodge a complaint.
Although phone scams typically target seniors, they can trick any unsuspecting soul.
1. Social security refund. The fakers tell the victim they can get his or her Social Security payroll taxes refunded for an upfront fee based on the size of the refund. Of course, the refund is inflated as is their upfront fee. The problem is, the law doesn't allow a refund of taxes paid into Social Security.
2. Early bird reward. The caller offers a reward for filing your return early. All you need to do is provide your bank details. They'll even get you on a three-way call with your bank to "help" ensure you'll be properly credited.
The IRS doesn't reward early birds, and for official business they NEVER contact taxpayers via email. They may send out emails with general information, but they will never request personal information online. It uses US Mail for all authorized communication. The only official IRS site is www.irs.gov. You should never go there by clicking on a link but only by typing the address directly into your browser. Tax refunds are strictly obtained through an annual tax return, not a separate application form or any other process. Never give out personal information to unknown callers via the phone.
Start preparing now
Whether you're an early or last minute filer, there's a lot to be aware of this tax season. Stay on the look out and make sure you've got everything lined up to make year-end preparation less taxing. Twists OP has an enormous array of official IRS tax forms and materials to streamline the process. Make your list, check it twice and call them today!
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