As we get deeper into tax filing season and more taxpayers gather their receipts and forms to begin the filing process, it bears repeating that tax returns have become a leading target for cyber criminals. We can’t emphasize enough the necessity to be as secure as possible in protecting your personal data and financial information, creating challenging passwords, and paying close attention to anything that seems amiss.
The most blatant attacks are often made right out in the open. Scammers pretending to be the IRS will use a telephone call, email or fake website to steal your identity and your money. In many cases the phone call is an automated “robo-call” stating that you owe money and demanding immediate payment. Or the caller might promise a refund and ask for your bank account information so that they can “direct deposit” the funds.
The IRS is making a strong effort to inform, educate and warn the public about these scams. But it is up to each of us to be alert for activities that may contain clues about potential scams and criminal activity.
It may help to know what a legitimate IRS employee will NOT do when reaching out to a taxpayer by telephone. The IRS will not:
- Call a taxpayer if they owe tax without first sending a bill in the mail.
- Call demanding immediate payment.
- Demand payment without allowing the taxpayer to question or appeal the amount owed.
- Require the taxpayer pay their taxes a certain way; for example, demand taxpayers use a prepaid debit card.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Threaten to contact local police or similar agencies to arrest the taxpayer for non-payment of taxes.
- Threaten legal action such as a lawsuit.
If you receive a suspicious email, the IRS offers this advice:
- Don’t reply to the message.
- Don’t give out your personal or financial information.
- Forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org then delete it.
- Do not open any attachments or click on any links, as they may have malicious code that could infect your computer.
If you feel you have fallen victim to a scam attempt, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page to report the incident. You may also wish to report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission, using the “FTC Complaint Assistant ” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your report.
You’ve worked too hard to earn your money and build up a solid financial reputation. Don’t lose it all to a cyber criminal pretending to be an IRS agent. Be alert to phony calls or emails, confirm the identity of anyone trying to deal with you on a tax matter, and – even if it goes against your nature – be guarded and wary.
For additional information on ways to protect yourself, or for answers to other tax questions, please contact the Gray, Gray & Gray Tax Department at (781) 407-0300.