The IRS recently issued its annual list of the Dirty Dozen tax scams to watch out for throughout the year. Here are three top scam themes to come out of the list, plus ways to protect yourself from them:
1. Phishing: With phishing, a criminal uses the bait of an email or fake website to lure victims into providing personal information. For instance, the sender may pretend to be from the IRS.
In a recent twist, criminals are directing refunds to their victims' bank accounts, and then using lies, threats and intimidation to convince the victims to hand over the money using various methods to collect the refunds.
To combat phishing:
- Report IRS-related expeditions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Remember that the IRS generally doesn't initiate contact via email.
- Educate yourself about taxpayer rights on the IRS website.
2. Untrustworthy phone calls: The IRS has reminded taxpayers to beware aggressive phone scams from criminals posing as IRS agents. About 12,716 victims have collectively paid more than $63 million through phone scams since October 2013.
Typically, the caller demands that you pay a bogus tax bill in cash, usually through a wire transfer or a prepaid debit or gift card. They may also leave urgent callback requests via robo-calls or phishing emails. The IRS advises the following:
- Don't give any information. Hang up immediately.
- Contact the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) to report the call. Review the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting. Alternatively, call 800-366-4484.
- Report calls to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the FTC Complaint Assistant on the FTC website.
3. Identity theft: Be alert to tactics aimed at stealing your identity — not just during tax filing season, but all year long. Luckily, strides are being made to protect taxpayers. For example, the number of taxpayers reporting ID theft declined from 2016 to 2017 by 40 percent.
The IRS says it will continue to pursue tax returns that use someone else's Social Security information. But taxpayers can help themselves. Here's how:
- Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections.
- Don't click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails.
- Protect personal data.
Finally, treat personal information like cash; don't leave it lying around. Call us if you have questions about your tax information safety.
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