Every year brings us new technology and correlating risks. One of the risks is ever evolving online fraud and phishing scams. Scammers constantly use technology to con people out of valuable information but the most prolific time of the year is tax season.
Individuals and businesses alike are especially at risk during this time.
Here are a few essential tips to help you and your business avoid scammers.
The IRS Doesn’t Initiate Contact via Email, Text, or Social Media
Callers claiming to be IRS employees will use fake names and identification numbers to fool you. They may give you some plausible details about your personal accounts or business. They can even change their caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.
Here’s what you can do to verify if the person calling you is really from the IRS:
- Hang up and call the IRS directly, yourself. This guarantees that you make it to the correct government department, you can then check for any notices on your account. Scammers can’t combat your diligent fact-checking.
Note that the IRS doesn’t:
- Call to demand immediate payment. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
- Demand payment without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
Business Owners Are Being Targeted
Tax professionals and HR Managers are increasingly being targeted by scammers. Criminals may call or email and pose as government officials to collect employee data. Their goal is to file fraudulent federal and state income tax returns.
You can protect yourself by keeping secure passwords to all your online software, confirm that you are communicating with the correct representative by calling into the source directly, and don’t click on any strange emails or links asking you to ‘update information’. For example, scammers may pose as taxpayers asking their tax preparer to make a last-minute change to their refund destination. The IRS urges tax preparers to verbally check with the client if they receive a last-minute email request to change refund information.
If you receive an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), report it by sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org.