tax scams during filing seasonwritten by Connor O’Mealy

The filing season is the most active time of the year for tax scams. These scams can come in many different forms, ranging from anonymous telephone calls to sophisticated schemes targeting employers. The goal of all these scams is identity theft. Scammers use the identities of unsuspecting individuals to file fraudulent returns and claim fake refunds.

Phone scams
Every day, individuals receive calls and emails from criminals pretending to work for the IRS. Scammers can alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS is calling. Criminals use IRS employee titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They also use the victim’s personal information to make the call sound official. The phone calls often threaten legal action or arrest if the taxpayers do not immediately make a payment. They mainly request payment with a debit or gift card. If you receive a threatening phone call, hang up immediately. The IRS will never demand immediate payment using a specific payment method or threaten arrest.

Email scams
Email scams often request for recipients to provide personal and financial information in order “to verify” a tax obligation or claim a “refund.” The emails appear to be genuine communications from the IRS. Scammers create websites that appear legitimate in the hope that individuals will provide as much personal information as possible. Scam emails can also infect a taxpayer’s computer with malware. The malware can give criminals access to the device, enabling them to access all sensitive files. It also allows them to track keyboard strokes, exposing login information. The IRS will never initiate contact with taxpayers via email about a bill or refund. Taxpayers should delete these emails immediately.

Employers
Criminals create disguising emails to make it appear as if it is from a company executive. Typically, this email is sent to an employee in the payroll or human resources departments, requesting a list of all employees and their W-2 forms. This scam is sometimes referred to as business email compromise (BEC) or business email spoofing (BES). These scams target many different types of businesses. Businesses that received the scam email last year also are reportedly receiving it again this year. The IRS has requested employers and businesses to forward these bogus emails to the agency at phishing@irs.gov.

Identity theft
The IRS is making progressive steps in identifying and curbing tax-related identity theft. The IRS and tax professionals have joined together to better protect taxpayer information. The agency has upgraded its return processing identity theft filters and taken other measures to uncover fraudulent returns. These measures have helped to deter tax-related identity theft but criminals continue to look for ways to trick taxpayers and the IRS.

Please contact our office if you have any questions about filing season tax scams 417-881-0145.