It’s tax time! Law-abiding U.S. citizens are sharpening their pencils, gathering receipts and scrambling to find the correct forms to fulfill their duties as taxpayers.
At the same time, identity thieves and scammers are sharpening their devious skills, inventing new schemes to defraud the government and you.
“Many tax fraud scams use fear and intimidation with law-abiding citizens, suggesting that they are in trouble with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS),” said Trevor Buxton, who fights fraud every day as a certified fraud examiner and fraud awareness manager at PNC. “The one thing that every taxpayer needs to remember is that if you owe taxes, the IRS will first contact you in writing through the United States Postal Service (USPS) – not by telephone and not by email.”
Learn to defend yourself against some common tax fraud scams by blocking the attack with knowledge, delivering a response when faced by the threat (see tips below), and speeding up your tax filing.
Buxton says you should put up your defenses if you recognize characteristics of the most common scams:
Identity Theft – Topping the list is the unauthorized use of a Social Security number to file a tax return and claim a phony refund. The Internet can store your personal information, including your birthdate, address, telephone number, email address and driver’s license number, among others. What’s not available on the web may be bought on the black market, such as bank account information and Social Security numbers. It also could be picked out of your garbage and recycling bins straight from the curb.
But there also is a new threat that targets tax preparers and their clients: cybercriminals are posing as potential clients with the goal of gaining access to the tax preparer’s existing client database. The scammer poses as a client and sends an email containing malware to infect the preparer’s computer and can access all of the files and information on the preparer’s device.
To stay up-to-date with the latest details on these (and other) tax scams, you can visit irs.gov.
By improving its early detection system, the IRS identified and confirmed roughly 171,000 fraudulent returns in the early months of 2016, stopping an estimated $1.1 billion in fraudulent tax refunds.
Take precautions to defend yourself and your family from these tax fraud schemes with the following tips:
“Time is money, even for fraudsters. Don’t answer calls from unknown phone numbers. If you do not answer, the fraudsters will stop wasting time with you and move on to the next target,” said Buxton. “Valid callers will opt to leave you a message.”
For more information on identity theft, visit PNC’s Security and Privacy site »
The Tax Inspector General for Tax Administration tracked IRS-related telephone fraud scams from the fall of 2013 to October 2016. Highlights include:
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