How to avoid scammers this tax season
Tax season is just around the corner, and cybercriminals will be looking to take advantage of your information through phone and email social engineering scams. Knowing how to identify a scam and how to protect yourself will help you avoid financial issues down the road.
According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), cybercriminals impersonate IRS agents and often alter caller ID numbers and emails to make it look like the treasury department, the IRS or another official agency is contacting a taxpayer. Scammers may use employee titles, a person’s name, address and other personal information to sound official.
These individuals will often request personal information to verify the details they have to process a tax refund. Out of concern, tax payers share personal information and even send money.
Steps you can take to protect your data
Just a few bits of your personal information can be used to steal your identity and open new lines of credit, which may damage your credit history if not caught and dealt with. If you receive any phone calls that are unusual or give you cause for concern, check and monitor your credit score regularly to catch any irregularities. The best way to combat a tax fraud scams is to educate yourself and to know what to look for. If you aren’t sure if you owe money this tax season, contact the IRS directly at 800-366-4484.
Red flags to watch
The IRS will never:
- Initiate a phone call or email to ask for personal information
- Call or email to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the treasury department will first send a bill through the U.S. mail to any taxpayer who owes taxes
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying
- Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone
Unfortunately, scammers may further intimidate you if you refuse to pay them. In some instances, a criminal may even have another member of their fraud team pose as a police officer to make the threats seem more authentic. Do not waver. Hang up the phone and report the scamming incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration as soon as possible.
By reporting the incident, you can help protect other individuals because the IRS will use information you provide to update tax payers with new tactics and methods these criminals are implementing.
Tax season can be a stressful time of year and the possibility of fraudulent activity can add to the seasonal worries. Informing yourself of the types of tax fraud scams and knowing the steps to take if you receive a suspicious phone call or email, can help bring more peace of mind.
You can find additional online resources about information security by visiting the UMB Security and Privacy page.
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