Tax scams have been around for well over a decade-the prerecorded calls and spoofed emails; It’s nothing new. While thankfully more people have caught on and simply hang up or delete the messages, scammers are changing their strategy.

Scammers have become more elaborate: This year, the IRS released a new scam alert. With new techniques and many sectors lacking in cybersecurity infrastructure, it has become easier for criminals to steal data from you or your tax professional-acquiring bank and social security information. They use that data to file forged tax returns in your name. Once you receive the check or deposit, they do one of two versions of the scam: They either pose as debt collection agency officials, claiming the refund you received was in error and to pay them. The other method is to send a very intimidating pre-recorded phone call that claims if you do not return the money to the IRS, you will be arrested.

Here is an example of a tax scam call received (part of the message was not recorded):

[inaudible]…….And once it gets expired, after that you will be taken under custody by the local cops, as there are four serious allegations pressed on your name at this moment. We would request you to get back to us, so that we can discuss about this case, before taking any legal action against you. The number to reach us is [local number]. I repeat, [local number], Thank you.

While the person in question who received this understood it was fake, many people fall victim to these scams: The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) estimates 4,550 victims paid these scammers over $23 million dollars since 2013.

While it has become more challenging to discern, especially when they play with your emotional response and fears, there are a few things that still hold true to help protect yourself:

 

The IRS Will Never Call You to Threaten Arrest or Demand Immediate Payment, Without an Opportunity to Question or Appeal

The IRS has stated that they will never call you or leave a prerecorded message demanding payment. They will always send a bill in the mail before calling you.

 

Call the IRS Directly to Verify

If you know you owe taxes or suspect you owe, call them directly: 800-829-1040 for assistance on any money you actually owe. Even if the person on the phone tells you not to hang up, hang up. Call the IRS direct number to confirm the information.

 

File Early

It’s easy to forget to put off your taxes when you have months to complete it. Scammers take advantage of this and will try to file with your information before you. If you do file and it is rejected because a return already exists, follow the IRS’ Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft

 

Keep Your Information Secure

Scammers may ask you for payment-the IRS will never ask for your credit or debit card information over the phone. Never access your tax or financial information on a public wifi access, as those are prime targets by scammers to hack into your account. If they get into one of your accounts, it can be easy for them to access others, especially if you tend to use the same login credentials for all of your accounts.

 

What if I have been scammed?

As we explained in a previous post on phone scams, you need to do the following:

  • Freeze all of your accounts and change all information on file
  • Call your bank and the IRS to notify them that you are a victim of identity theft and have been scammed
  • Get a free credit report and sign up for credit monitoring