It’s tax season once again! January 26-30 is Tax ID Theft Awareness Week. Expect Tax ID fraud to be higher this year than ever before. While many hard-working Americans look forward to a tax refund, scammers are also looking for ways to steal your identity so they can intercept your refund, or worse yet, file a return they know will make it past computer reviews so they can claim a huge refund and have it sent directly to them.
How Does ID Theft Happen
ID theft can be the result of carelessness on the part of the victim, or the result of the victim’s information being obtained by hackers who break into databases that hold their personal data. Here are some ways thieves use stolen information during tax season:
- Individuals will file a tax return using a stolen Social Security number
- They will file claims using someone else’s children as dependents
- They will use a deceased person’s information to file a tax refund
- They will sell you personal data to someone who will use it as above
Stolen information is obtained by targeting your mail, phishing or fake emails in your inbox, people posing as IRS agents over the phone, and by people claiming to be trusted tax preparation service providers. Here is an example of how millions of people are targeted each year.
Tax scam video example
What You Should Know About IRS Imposter Scams
Identity thieves are always looking for creative ways to not only steal your identity but also get the most use out of your stolen information. Thieves pose as IRS agents in order to scare and coerce you into giving them the rest of the information they need to file a fraudulent claim. Here are some things IRS imposters may say when trying to steal your information over the phone:
- They make threats to arrest or deport you if you don’t pay
- They will rig caller ID to make it look like the call is from the IRS
- They provide instructions and tell you to put the money on a prepaid debit card and tell them the card number.
How The IRS Actually Operates
The IRS, for all its powers on collecting unpaid taxes, is nowhere near the 21st century when it comes to technology. They normally operate through mail correspondence and only then do they provide instructions and information regarding tax issues and payment options. The IRS or IRS agents will never:
- Call you to demand immediate payment about taxes owed without first sending you a notification by mail
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement to arrest you for nonpayment
If you have any doubts, call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040 or, if you’ve spotted a scam or think you may have been scammed, call the IRS helpline at 877-908-3360 for advice and guidance.
What You Can Do To Protect Yourself
Remember, it’s your job to protect your identity. Thieves are always searching for and inventing new ways to steal your information. Here are some tips on how to protection from IRS imposter scams and tax identity theft:
- Mail your tax return early in the tax season before the cons beat you to it
- Don’t give out personal information unless you know who’s asking for it and why it’s needed.
- Shred all personal and financial documents
- Know your tax preparer
- Check the status of your refund after filing at irs.gov/Refunds
For help, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490 and visit irs.gov/identitytheft.
Follow these safety guidelines and protect yourself from becoming a victim of tax identity fraud or IRS scams this tax season. Enjoy your refund and don’t spend it all in one place!