You may be dreading tax season but there are some folks who couldn’t be happier: criminal cartels. They are hoping to intercept your tax rebate, to con you into paying fake fines or to steal your identity. They have an increasingly sophisticated arsenal of tricks: phony emails, texts, websites and phone scripts. It’s a big business because, sadly, there is no shortage of victims. Read the The 2013 Dirty Dozen Tax Scams, an IRS-issued list of the most common tax scams last year.
What are common fraud warning signs?
- Threats and promises. Any messages via email, text or phone that include scary threats, that demand immediate action or that promise refunds, rebates or winnings should be immediate red flags.
- Requests for personal information. The IRS does not send any communication requesting your PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts. Do not give this information to phone callers either.
- Email with links and attachments. Scammers are good at creating email that looks “official.” Do not open links or attachments from people you don’t know. Get in the habit of hovering over email links to reveal the real address before clicking because the apparent link may not lead where it says.See How to Tell if a Link Is Safe Without Clicking on It.
Be skeptical about emails. Look for misspellings and bad grammar. One trick you can use is to copy a paragraph of a suspicious email into the Google search box – it will often reveal that many people got the same email and point to a number of alerts that the mail is a fraud. You can also check the IRS Consumer alerts.