Tax season might be a bit of a hassle for many of us, but con artists love it. This is the time of year that we’re all rushing to complete our tax returns, we’re feeling anxious about possible audits or delays, and we sometimes let our guard down a bit. Remember that you can’t trust everyone who wants access to your personal information. Keep reading to learn about five tax season scams.
Tax refund theft. If your Social Security number and other personal information falls into the wrong hands at any time, you might be shocked to learn that someone else has already filed a return in your name and claimed your refund. If you believe you have been a victim of this scam, perhaps because you receive a notice from the IRS that you’ve already filed your return, call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490.
Scam callers. If you receive a phone call that seems vaguely threatening – perhaps from an IRS agent who claims you’re being audited, you owe them money, or someone has stolen your tax refund – don’t give them any information. Hang up the phone and call your tax professional or even call the IRS directly yourself. The IRS won’t call you about problems, and they certainly won’t demand money over the phone. This is a scam.
Phony emails. Likewise, the IRS also will not email you about problems with your return. If you receive one of these emails, even if it looks very official, it is probably what we call a “phishing” scheme. The scammer hopes you’ll click the provided link and enter your login information onto a fake website. Now they have your username and password, and can log into your tax preparation account. These emails might also appear to originate from your tax preparation service. Never follow links in emails; open a new tab in your browser and log into the website you know and trust.
Fake charities. You might receive a solicitation from a charity, reminding you that you can earn a valuable tax donation in exchange for your gift. Unfortunately, some of these calls are con artists. To be sure you’re donating to a legitimate charity, check the list of approved organizations on the IRS website.
Fishy tax pros. Always use an accountant or tax preparation service that is well-known and trusted. Some of these temporary “tax pros” who set up shop at this time of year are actually con men, who just want access to your tax information. They will often disappear soon after meeting with a number of local clients, and your tax refund might disappear along with them.
If you have any other questions about financial planning, please call us to schedule an appointment. Remember to keep yourself safe not only during tax season, but at all times during the year, by never giving out personal information to unverified people or websites.