If it feels like we have too much scam to worry about and to protect ourselves against, you are right. From robocalls to free vacations to spam text messages that lead to unsafe websites, nefarious people constantly try to mislead and manipulate people from their hard-earned money.
Now that the tax season is imminent, individuals and groups will again try to cheat taxpayers and the US government with millions of dollars, using techniques and technologies that range from the old school to the limit. This year is no different, and the IRS has issued feverish warnings about how to find the red flags and strategies to stay out of sight of scammers.
Even if you have been careful with your sensitive information, the negligence of others may have put you at risk. In 2017, Equifax, one of the three major credit bureaus, lost control of customer data, including social security numbers, home addresses, credit card numbers, driver's license numbers and birth dates.
The company estimates that data from 143 million people – most in the US – was exposed. The 2017 tax season can help figure out the extent of the damage, as identity thieves use stolen social security numbers to file fraudulent tax returns and receive refunds.
Here is a shortlist of some of the most popular scams that make the rounds – and how you can keep both your identity and your tax return secure.
The telephone conversation with the imitation of the IRS
How it works: One of the most brutal schemes used every year are scammers who represent the IRS and claim to represent the taxpayer and demand an immediate tax payment. Calling from a phone number that appears to belong to the IRS on your caller ID, they will threaten, tie, and intimidate you to make a hasty decision. Usually they will often request a transfer of money with a gift voucher or bank transfer. Thieves are increasingly extending this scheme to e-mail and social media channels.
How you can protect yourself: Know that the IRS will never call you or appear at your home to demand immediate payment – especially through gift card or bank transfer. Although collection agencies are known to be intrusive, a representative of the IRS should never insult, abuse or threaten to engage law or immigration agencies.
If someone claiming to work for the IRS calls you, the IRS tells you to note the number from which you received the call, the caller's name and then hang up. You can then call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040 or visit irs.gov/balancedue to view your account.
Report a scam phone call with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration by calling 1-800-366-4484 or at tigta.gov. You can also call the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP or visit ftc.gov/complaint cialis19659014 reblogirs.jpg "data-original =" https://cnet4.cbsistatic.com/img/Z_96yVxB4K97ZT5T6PPwThrMn9M=/2013 / 04/10 / 6a524854-f0e0-11e2-8c7c-d4ae52e62bcc / irs.jpg “/>
The IRS has issued various warnings and warnings about common scams.
The surprise bait-and-switch refund
How it works: In the words of the IRS, this is a "new twist on an old scam." Once criminals have secured your sensitive personal information, such as social security numbers and tax forms, they can easily file a fraudulent declaration on your behalf.
Once the money is in your bank account, the scammers, who act as someone from the IRS or a collection agency, will contact you to request the refund of the illegally obtained money – either by depositing into an account or to send to an account. address.
How to protect yourself: Be alert for an unexpected tax assessment, refund, or notifications from the tax authorities or your tax preparer about multiple returns filed with your social security number. If you receive an incorrect refund, do not go outside to make a major purchase; the IRS wants its money back.
If you suspect that you are a victim, you must submit a complaint to the FTC; Request that the major credit bureaus post a "fraud warning" on your file and contact the IRS at 1-800-908-4490.
Cancel or suspend your social security number
How it works: Criminals call and threaten to suspend or cancel your social security number (SSN) until your overduehave been paid. The scam may seem legitimate because the caller has some of your personal information, including the last four digits of your SSN. But as the IRS says: "Make no mistake … it's a scam."
How to protect yourself: If someone calls and threatens to cancel or suspend your social security number, hang up immediately. If they call back, don't answer. Note the number and then report the call on this site and send an email with the subject "IRS Phone Scam" to firstname.lastname@example.org and mention the phone number and all other relevant details in the body of the email.
If you owe tax, you can call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to discuss your payment options. However, your social security number will not be canceled or suspended.
False texts, emails or social media messages
How it works: Thieves have had years to refine their email tricks and have recently been expanded to include text messages and social media messages. Phishing scams have become much more sophisticated, with incredibly authentic-looking messages sent from credible-looking addresses that mislead victims into sharing sensitive information or installing malware.
A particularly risky guess is that scammers use the IRS name and logo to warn taxpayers about the scams they commit before they ask for sensitive personal information. Note that besides taxpayers, attackers are increasingly focusing on tax professionals.
How you can protect yourself: Be wary of messages you receive via e-mail, text or social media that the IRS, a tax claim to be a professional or other financial organization. Again, the real IRS will never contact you to request personal or financial information.
If you receive such a message, the IRS asks you to forward it to email@example.com. Do not reply to the original message.
Fraudsters are constantly trying new things
The IRS has a special Tax Scams webpage where the agency publishes warnings and updates about the current batch of scams that are being used. Additional scams for which the IRS has issued warnings include "ghost tax preparers" who charge someone to do their taxes, often on the basis of a large refund amount, and then fail to send the tax return – causing the customer to complete a non-completed leaves a tax return and no refund.
There is also a warning for a tax transcription scam that targets companies with a file attachment infected by Emotet malware.
The biggest pick-up option here is this: if the IRS needs something from you, you will receive a letter in the mail. You will not receive an email, telephone call or text message. Even still, letters can be fake, so it's best to use only official IRS websites and phone numbers.
In addition to preventing your tax information from being compromised, it is also a good idea to use a password manager, where possible two-factor authentication, and learn how to identify robocalls.
Originally published earlier this month. Updated with new information.