Be on Your Guard for Tax Scams

Did you know that tax season is prime time for criminals trying to steal your money through tax scams?

You can't prevent all tax fraud, but you can take steps to reduce your risk of becoming a victim. Here are 3 of the most common tax scams with some pointers on how to avoid trouble:

Fraudulent returns. If a thief obtains your Social Security number and other tax-related information, they may try to file a fake tax return based on your record to get your refund. The IRS works hard to detect fraudulent returns and last year prevented more than $190 million from being stolen in this manner. Protect your identity especially at tax time:

  • File your own tax return quickly as the IRS accepts only one return per Social Security number - make sure yours gets there first.
  • Check your mailbox frequently to retrieve tax forms like W-2s and 1099s.
  • Review your credit report regularly.
  • Don't give out your Social Security number unless it's required.
  • Destroy any paper documents with your Social Security or bank account numbers by shredding.

Phishing. When you receive a text or email that claims to be from someone else, like the IRS or even a friend, this is called phishing. Phishing emails can look very official, including links that take you to fake IRS websites. The IRS will never send you an email as an initial contact in any tax issue - you will always get a paper letter first. Authentic IRS webpages will begin with "irs.gov" and not irs.com, irs.net or irsgov. If you receive an email supposedly from the IRS and you are not expecting it, don't open any attachment or click through any link. You can report it to the IRS by forwarding to phishing@irs.gov.

Telephone scams. Have you received one of these calls? The caller represents himself as an "IRS agent" and declares that you owe federal taxes. In the past few years alone, scams like these have cost their victims more than $23 million. Another type of phone scam requests your banking information for a non-existent refund. Again, the IRS will never call you without first mailing you a letter or a tax bill, and won't ask for banking or credit card information over the phone. Even if you do owe taxes, you have the right to appeal your case. Don't talk to anyone whom you suspect to be fraudulently representing the IRS - hang up and report the incident to the IRS scam reporting website or call them at 800-829-1040.

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