As if tax season wasn't already a stressful time, we now have to worry about all of the scams that inevitably crop up at this time of year. Tax fraud continues to be a mounting problem, the IRS paid out an estimated 5.8 billion in fraudulent returns in 2013. And this was before hackers obtained information in the high profile hacks we experienced in the last year, including the OPM breach, the Anthem and Premera breaches, and before the IRS detected the breach of its own record-keeping application, which exposed the records of 334,000 taxpayers.
Of course this doesn't mean you should panic. Throughout tax season we've been talking about the habits and measures you can take during tax time and throughout the year to best protect against tax fraud and identity theft. Things like shredding documents that contain important personal details before you trash them or ways of securing your SSN are both great ways to protect yourself throughout the year, but you should also guard against phone scams.
Phishing calls are usually pretty easy to avoid. Your best defenses against these kinds of calls are to stay calm and remember that the IRS's first point of contact with you will always be through the mail, not the phone or email.
“People see something from the IRS and they start to freak out,” said Melanie Lauridsen, senior technical manager for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. “Panic sets in instead of thinking through things rationally.”
Lauridsen also added that threatening lawsuits or arrest will never be a first, second, or even third course of action when dealing with the IRS. Anyone who calls you and attempts to intimidate you with any of these tactics is a scammer.
And never, ever give out any information over the phone to someone requesting it—your SSN or bank account number should be totally off-limits to anyone who calls you. If you suspect that someone on the phone is actually legitimate, hang up, find the phone number to the institution they claim to be from, and call them back. That way you can be sure it was really them.
It may be helpful to check any numbers that call your house against the phone numbers in the list the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration released of known tax scam calls, but remember this isn't an exhaustive list.
It's simple—stay vigilant and be wary of callers requesting information.
Identity Guard is committed to helping you not only protect yourself from identity theft, but also understand how it can happen. Count on us to get tips and advice to help guard against all sorts of identity related fraud, including tax fraud.