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Tax season brings increased risk for scammers
Jan 26, 2013 4:00 pm
The Internal Revenue Service will begin accepting e-filed tax returns Tuesday, kicking off tax season.
But with tax season comes an increased risk of falling victim to scammers, according to the IRS.
“There continues to be scammers out there who try to use the name of the IRS to entice people or intimidate them into giving out personal info,” said Dan Boone, IRS spokesperson.
The IRS receives thousands of reports each year from taxpayers who receive suspicious e-mails, phone calls, faxes or notices claiming to be from the IRS. Many of these scams fraudulently use the IRS name or logo as a lure to make the communication appear more authentic and enticing.
“They take several approaches that I’ve seen in the past,” said Boone. “One is to say ‘you’ve got a refund due, click on this link and fill out your refund form and we’ll deposit your refund in your bank account,’ and of course then they ask for your bank account information and things like that…There is no such thing as a refund form. The only refund form that there is is your tax return that you file each year with the IRS.”
The goal of these scams – known as phishing – is to trick people into revealing personal and financial information, such as Social Security number, bank account or credit card numbers. The scammers can then use that information to commit identity theft or steal money.
“We would never ask anyone to provide personal information or private information by email and we would never link someone to a website and ask them to fill in personal information, which is typically how the scammers work,” said Boone.
People are particularly vulnerable during tax season.
“Once people start e-filing, which will begin Jan. 30, oftentimes people expect to hear something from the IRS by electronic means,” said Boone. “The IRS does confirm receipt of your tax return when you e-file, but it does not do it through a personal e-mail.”
According to Boone, the IRS will send confirmation through either the software used to e-file – such as TurboTax – or the tax preparer. The sender listed on the any confirmation sent to the taxpayer would be, for example, TurboTax.
The IRS offered the following information to keep in mind to avoid becoming a victim of phishing:
1. The IRS never asks for detailed personal and financial information like PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts.
2. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by e-mail or social media to request personal or financial information. If you receive an e-mail from someone claiming to be the IRS or directing you to an IRS site:
• Do not reply to the message.
• Do not open any attachments. Attachments may contain malicious code that will infect your computer.
• Do not click on any links. If you clicked on links in a suspicious e-mail or phishing website and entered confidential information, visit the IRS website and enter the search term 'identity theft' for more information and resources to help.
3. The address of the official IRS website is irs.gov. Do not be confused or misled by sites claiming to be the IRS but ending in .com, .net, .org or other designations instead of .gov. If you discover a website that claims to be the IRS but you suspect it is bogus, do not provide any personal information on the suspicious site. Report it to the IRS.
4. If you receive a phone call, fax or letter in the mail from an individual claiming to be from the IRS but you suspect they are not an IRS employee, contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to determine if the IRS has a legitimate need to contact you. Report any bogus correspondence. You can forward a suspicious e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. You can help shut down these schemes and prevent others from being victimized. Details on how to report specific types of scams and what to do if you’ve been victimized are available at irs.gov. Click on "Reporting Phishing" on the home page.