It’s tax season, which can lead to tax scam season. Taxpayers have until April 15 to file their state and federal income tax returns this year. And, as they search their files and piles around their homes for critical tax documents, another group also is losing no time to make the most of the season -scammers.
The Internal Revenue Service is putting a spotlight on tax scams that aim to steal money and valuable information from taxpayers. These schemes happen all year, according to the federal agency, but scammers work overtime during tax season to take advantage of vulnerable taxpayers.
Anybody involved in these illegal shakedowns can face big fines and even jail time. Taxpayers also should know, according to the IRS, that they are legally responsible for the information in their tax return even if it was completed by another person.
SSN Scam: A new tax scam related to Social Security numbers involves fraudsters who claim to be able to suspend or cancel the victim’s SSN. It’s another in a long line of attempts to frighten unsuspecting consumers into returning ‘robocall’ voicemails.
Phishing: The IRS has issued several alerts about the use of the IRS name or logo by scammers trying to gain access to consumers’ financial information to steal their identity and assets. In these phishing scams, con artists attempt to confuse taxpayers by sending emails or launching websites that appear to be official IRS communication. In reality, they are simply attempting to con taxpayers into sharing their personal information. Be aware of unexpected emails about big refunds, tax bills or requesting personal information -- the IRS does not communicate with taxpayers this way. To report unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS contact email@example.com.
Phone scams: The IRS also reports a boom in the number of phone calls where scammers impersonate IRS agents. They can be aggressive and even threaten taxpayers with arrest, deportation and license revocation. In a new twist on the IRS impersonation phone scam, these scammers have begun to fake calls from the Taxpayer Advocate Service. To avoid being conned, know that the IRS generally initiates contact with taxpayers by mail, not phone call.
Return preparer fraud: Most tax return preparers do good work. Some hang up a shingle to commit fraud. Choose your preparer carefully and avoid the “ghost” tax return preparer.
According to the IRS, you can be assured that they will never:
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