How to avoid scams and recognize identity theft

Just about every other week we get a call from someone pretending to be from the IRS attempting to obtain personal information. The matter is usually very urgent and they state that we need to call them back immediately to avoid liens or garnishments.

FACT: The IRS will not contact you via text message or email. Their first point of contact will be via US mail.

FACT: You will received notices in the mail prior to there being a threat of liens or garnishments (which are usually a result of ignoring said notices).

FACT: The IRS will not ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

Some of the most common IRS impersonation scams include:

-Requesting fake tax payments: The IRS has seen automated calls where scammers leave urgent callback requests telling taxpayers to call back to settle their “tax bill.”

-Targeting students and parents and demanding payment for a fake “Federal Student Tax”: Telephone scammers are targeting students and parents demanding payments for fictitious taxes, such as the “Federal Student Tax.”

-Sending a fraudulent IRS bill related to the Affordable Care Act: The IRS has received numerous reports around the country of scammers sending a fraudulent version of CP2000 notices for tax year 2015. Generally, the scam involves an email or letter that includes the fake CP2000. The fraudulent notice includes a payment request that taxpayers mail a check made out to “I.R.S.” to the “Austin Processing Center” at a Post Office Box address.

-Soliciting W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals: Payroll and human resources professionals should be aware of phishing email schemes that pretend to be from company executives and request personal information on employees. The email contains the actual name of the company chief executive officer. In this scam, the “CEO” sends an email to a company payroll office employee and requests a list of employees and financial and personal information including Social Security numbers (SSN).

-“Verifying” tax return information over the phone: Scam artists call saying they have your tax return, and they just need to verify a few details to process your return. The scam tries to get you to give up personal information such as a SSN or personal financial information, including bank numbers or credit cards.

-Pretending to be from the tax preparation industry: The emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. The phishing schemes can ask taxpayers about a wide range of topics. E-mails or text messages can seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information.

If you get a suspicious phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do: -Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately. -Search the web for telephone numbers scammers leave in your voicemail asking you to call back. Some of the phone numbers may be published online and linked to criminal activity. -Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page or call 800-366-4484. -Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes. -If you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040. If you receive an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), report it by sending it to phishing@irs.gov.

All information presented was obtained through the IRS newsletter, provided to keep clients up to date on current events.