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The Number One Rule for Avoiding Tax Scams

Every year around this time we are unfortunately confronted with a new series of tax scams. There are many out there but a common one we have seen this year goes something like this IR-2018-27:

  • Taxpayer’s Identification is hacked
  • Stolen information is used to file an erroneous return in the taxpayer’s name
  • Refund is deposited in taxpayer’s bank account
  • Scammer calls taxpayer and tells them the money was mistakenly put into their checking account and asks taxpayer to return it

These scams are always evolving and having a new twist added to them but the one thing they all have in common is eventually someone calling you and asking you to send money.

With that in mind, one of the best ways to prevent yourself from being the victim of a tax scam is to remember this ironclad rule:

The IRS will never call you, so just hang up.

The IRS uses regular U.S. mail to contact taxpayers, not phone calls, not emails.

If you receive a call, do not give them any information about yourself, do not verify any information about yourself, just hang up.

Actually, better than hanging up, is never getting on the phone with them in the first place. With caller ID, it’s really a best practice to never answer the phone unless it’s from a number you know. If it’s someone that actually needs to get in touch with you, they can leave a message and then you can call them back. If the message is claiming to be from the IRS or someone acting on their behalf, do not call them back and have that number blocked.

Though this can seem very straightforward as you read this now, if/when you actually receive a phone call the scammers are very good at sounding very convincing (or even intimidating) if you listen long enough. You will hear everything from a threat to “blacklist” your Social Security Number to your local law enforcement being sent to your home if you fail to pay now.

Other items to help reduce your risk of being scammed:
  • Only use computers with proper firewalls, anti-virus software and use strong passwords.
  • Do not click on or download attachments from unknown persons.
  • Protect your personal data. Shred old documents that have any personal identification numbers included.
  • If you get a call/email from someone claiming to be someone you do business with (bank, credit card company, etc.) and they want you to update your personal information, hang up and call them back on an official number.
  • We have been talking about phone calls, but the same goes for emails. The IRS will not email you, so just delete messages claiming to be from them.

If you do think you have been a victim of identity theft here are some steps you should consider taking, Download: pdf-0009_identitytheft_a_recovery_plan