Tax scams are up 400 percent this year, according to the IRS, as scammers bombard taxpayers with emails, texts and phone calls in attempts to gain access to tax filing information and personal data.
A prominent tax fraud scam is the filing of a tax return in a victim’s name for a large tax refund. The IRS estimates that in 2013 about one million fraudulent tax forms were filed claiming an estimated $5.2 billion in returns. Scammers execute this scheme by gaining access to information such as name, address, date of birth and Social Security number.
Another common fraud involves scammers contacting taxpayers alleging they need to pay a fine or are due a refund. In this scam, callers often pretend to be an IRS agent. The scammer may request your bank or credit card account information offering to help pay a fine or deposit a refund.
Scammers also use email, text and social media in attempts to gain personal data including passwords and IRS PIN numbers. This scam can include requests for personal information, links to fraudulent websites and links to malware that download onto a computer.
Here are tips to remember to help prevent tax scams:
- Do not reply to texts or emails purportedly from the IRS seeking your PIN information or other personal information. The IRS will never request personal data via email or text.
- If you’re contacted by anyone claiming to be the IRS via email, text or phone call, do not provide any personal information. Instead, contact the IRS yourself at (800) 829-1040.
- Protect your Social Security number. Never provide your Social Security number via email or text. Also be wary of anyone calling on the phone requesting your Social Security number.
- Never click on email links from sources you do not know and trust. Scammers may claim to represent anyone, such as the IRS, retailers or other organizations, in an attempt to get personal information from you.
- If filing online or using tax preparation software, change your passwords each year. Also never use a public Wi-Fi connect or other insecure network.
- Filing earlier helps prevent scammers from filing a fraudulent return in your name. Choosing direct deposit on your tax form instead of a check is also safer, but be sure to never provide your bank account information over the phone or via email.
If you believe you’re the victim of identity theft or fraud, the Bank’s SHAZAM network suggests taking these steps:
- File a report with your local law enforcement agency.
- File a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
- File a report with the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — and request a “fraud alert” for your account.
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