Every year around this time, news reports are filled with stories of people who have fallen victim to identity theft and had their tax refunds stolen or suffered other crimes as a result. Each year, the schemes seem to get cleverer and more devious. The thieves use the cover of tax season and people’s anxiety about dealing with the IRS to “phish” for sensitive information they can use to commit fraud.
Here’s an overview of this year’s scams:
- “IRS” email. Official-looking email purporting to be from the IRS is still a favorite tactic. The latest version includes the IRS logo and requests taxpayers to verify tax or W-2 information.
- “IRS” phone calls. This year, there are a variety of phone-scams. These include:
- Automatic (“robo”) calls
- Calls threatening arrest, liens or some other immediate penalty
- Calls requesting payment through PayPal or other Internet channel
- Calls claiming the need to “verify” a large amount of personal financial information
- “Internal” email. Email that seems to be from the company CEO or other executive requesting W-2s and other sensitive information (date of birth, Social Security number, salary, etc.) by return email is an increasingly common scam. The thieves use “spoofing” email addresses, which look real, but aren’t.
- Email from “tax software companies”. There has been an increase in email that appears to be from various tax software companies or commercial tax preparation services. Like the IRS email scams, they will request verification of personal information.
- Do not reply to email purporting to be from the IRS. The IRS never initiates contact via email.
- Do not click any links in suspicious email messages. These can download viruses and data mining “Trojans” onto your computer. New variations of this malware can be difficult to detect and easily spread.
- Hang up on callers claiming to be from the IRS. While the IRS does conduct some business by telephone, it usually has to be initiated by the taxpayer or designated representative.
- Verify any requests for sensitive information. If you get a request for information within your organization, make sure it’s legitimate before you comply.
- Delete email from “tax software companies” or commercial tax preparers. Unless you have used one of these services in the past, you are probably being scammed.
- Report instances of suspected fraud to the US Treasury Inspector General.
- Contact your AKM CPA. As long as you don’t respond to the thieves, you probably will not suffer a loss, but let us know if you are targeted by a scammer so we can follow up and make sure everything is ok.