Don't Fall Victim to Tax Scams

The beginning of this year's shortened tax season is just a few days away, and while you are getting all your papers in order, remember that this is primetime for scams.

The beginning of this year’s shortened tax season is just a few days away, and while you are getting all your papers in order, remember that this is primetime for scams. While tax scams occur all throughout the year, income tax season is when activity peaks, according to the IRS.

Last year, the IRS initiated 1,492 identity theft-related investigations, but there are still occurrences of fraudulent tax returns resulting in claimed refunds. Identity thieves use a stolen Social Security number to file these fake tax returns early in the filing season, and so taxpayers might not realize anything has happened until they try to file their real return later in the tax season.

Identity theft is, unfortunately, common, and the IRS has more than 3,000 employees working on these issues. There are ways to avoid becoming a victim, so you don’t have to go through the complex process of resolving the issue, and protecting against identity theft.

Scam warnings

Even during tax season, taxpayers should be wary of unexpected communication that is supposedly from the IRS. Thieves will pose as the IRS and make calls or send emails to pay past-due taxes or send out refunds.

The IRS noted on its website that the organization does not initiate contact via email for personal or financial information. And the IRS definitely will not communicate via text or social media.

Don’t open attachments on unexpected emails or provide PINs, passwords or other information for your credit card, bank or other accounts. Instead, forward these emails to phishing@irs.gov.

Protection

To protect your Social Security number, don’t carry the card or any documents with the number or your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. Only give this information to a business when it is required, not just because they ask for it.

Otherwise, taxpayers should use the same precautions as throughout the rest of the year: checking credit reports once a year, securing personal information at home, use secure passwords, protect computers with firewalls and virus software.

And be careful of who you trust to do your taxes. Do your due diligence and make sure the person you choose to work with doesn’t have any complaints in the past and really has the licenses he or she claims to have.

Tax season is stressful enough, especially since this year’s is compressed, without the extra trouble of falling victim to scammers.