Here are some ways you can avoid the most common scams occurring this tax season:
- Don’t open email links: People have been receiving emails from USA.gov and IRS.gov that ask them to update their IRS files by clicking on a link and entering their information. Never click on a link sent to you by email, because the IRS will never contact you in this manner. Instead, forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org to report the crime.
- Don’t fall for for fraudulent tax preparers: Scam artists will sometimes sell themselves as professional tax preparers only to make off with your most valuable personal information. To avoid this trap, only see a tax preparer who has an established base of operation, like an office. Search their name online to find out if they have any negative reviews from previous clients and to make sure they have the appropriate experience and credentials.
- Keep in mind that the IRS allows for appeals: The IRS always gives individuals the chance to appeal the amount owed, so if someone tries to pressure you into paying taxes immediately, then you’re most likely dealing with a scammer who is eager for your money.
- Keep in mind that the IRS doesn’t require a specific payment method: If you get a call from the IRS or a collection agency asking to be paid in a particular way, such as with cash or a prepaid card, then you’re not speaking with a legitimate institution and you shouldn’t hand over any money or private data. If you experience a fraudulent call or email, go to ftccomplaintassistant.gov to report a scam.
- Don’t respond to threatening calls or emails: Identity thieves know that they can get more information if they use fear as a motivating force. They’ll sometimes call or email individuals, pretending that the person is at risk of being arrested or having their license revoked. Sometimes they’ll pose as the IRS and accuse an individual of owing money. Don’t fall for these fear tactics — legitimate government institutions such as the IRS or law enforcement agencies won’t try to solicit your personal information over the phone or through email.
- Watch out for charity scams: Some identity thieves make calls during tax season posing as a charity director and asking for tax deductible donations. They can then use the personal information given to them to file fraudulent tax returns in that person’s name. To avoid this, don’t hand out money or information over the phone. If you want to donate to a charity, do your research to make sure it’s legitimate and then send your donation in a secure manner.
If you’re still worried about becoming a victim of tax fraud, then you may want to consider signing up for credit monitoring services that can alert you to certain activities that may indicate fraud.