If you have a tax refund coming, you are anxious to get it as soon as possible, right?
That’s what smart thieves are counting on and they are posing as the IRS in phone calls, emails, texts and websites to promise a faster return hoping you will supply sensitive information so they can intercept you tax refund.
There are also tax phone scams with fake IRS callers saying you owe money and threatening immediate arrest, deportation or fines if you don’t pay instantly or supply sensitive information to prevent some dire consequence.
Be very skeptical of any calls or emails from the IRS. At this time of year in particular, it may be criminals trying to intercept your tax refund. Tax fraud is surging. The government estimates that scams will cost taxpayers $21 billion this year. Don’t be one of the victims! See the current IRS Tax Fraud Alerts.
If you get a threatening phone call or a phone call promising a faster refund, do these two things:
- Hang up and call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.
- Take notes about the caller number and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.
Not all scams are by phone
Similar rules go for emails or text messages purporting to be from the IRS. Phishing emails and phishing sites can be very sophisticated and look surprisingly realistic. PCWorld offers common-sense security advice that everyone should know: 10 tips to protect your tax return from theft and fraud
Today, the Portland Press Herald reports on a number of stolen identity tax refund scam victims in Portland’s medical community. The article says it works like this:
“From a home computer, with tax software or free forms from the IRS, an identity thief can submit a fake return that generates a substantial refund. That refund can be deposited electronically in any bank account, to multiple bank accounts or even to a prepaid debit card. By the time the legitimate taxpayer or the IRS discovers the scheme, the thief can be long gone. “
It can happen to anyone. People are all righteously angry when personal data is leaked by a large corporation’s security failures, but it’s all too common for individuals to be duped into willingly handing over sensitive data to criminal phishers. It’s essential for all of us to take the time to learn how to be secure and skeptical online and off.
We’ve talked about this repeatedly on the blog because it’s such an important topic. For more information, see our archive of posts on tax scams and tax fraud.