Tax season is here and criminals are just as anxious as you are to get your refund.
Tax season 2019 officially starts on January 28, which is when the IRS is set to begin processing tax returns. Last year, the average tax return was around $3,100 for the average hard-working American. Unfortunately, this also makes it very enticing for criminals to find ways to steal your identity and file a tax return on your behalf.
How Does Identity 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.
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 Will Contact You
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.
Report all unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS or an IRS-related function to [email protected] If you’ve experienced any monetary losses due to an IRS-related incident, please report it to the Treasury Inspector General Administration (TIGTA) and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) through their Complaint Assistant to make the information available to investigators.
How 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!
~To Your Survival!
Tax scam video example