We’re so close to a breath of Spring air, we can feel it. Or, as they describe this time of year in accounting world, the thick of tax season.
But while processing returns and crunching the numbers (which you should get us your docs if you haven’t), we’ve noticed several scammers coming after our clients – and even our office staff. No, we’re not immune to the increasingly convincing and unwanted emails. It made us realize we need to get this information to you so you can be on your guard:
The TCG Accounting Team’s
“Real World” Personal Strategy Note
Tax Time Is Scam Time – How to Protect Yourself
“The best protection for the people is not necessarily to believe everything people tell them.” – Demosthenes
We’ve gotta hand it to scammers: They’re innovative, always coming up with new ways to trick you out of your money or personal financial information.
For example, in probably minutes after President Biden announced forgiveness of student loan debt last year, con artists hit the internet and started dialing phones to trick people out of hard-earned money with promises of big, quick payoffs on their debt. Unfortunately, the model of promising quick student loan debt pay-offs weren’t a new scam, either.
Tax season has always been a favorite scammer playtime to prey on fears of the IRS and other tax authorities. Year after year, crooks come up with new schemes and new lies to fool victims. So we want to prepare you to steer clear of these scams. Here’s how to start protecting yourself right now.
Phone scammers have been impersonating the IRS for ages, usually claiming the victim owes back taxes and threatening immediate arrest unless you cough up the dough with your credit card number, a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. This old trick has unfortunately worked on victims who didn’t know what to look for.
HOWEVER, recent times have added new wrinkles:
- Bogus tax-debt relief. For this strategy, scams promise a new Biden program guaranteeing tax-debt forgiveness. They mention a federal “Empowerment Program” to relieve your debt – but you have to send a “tax fee” of some three figures and shipping costs before you get your debt relieved.Your first question: Do you even have tax debt? Your next action: Call us.
- Saying you owe taxes on something you bought recently. Fraudsters typically bait victims with claims of purchases of big-ticket items on their account. This rip-off uses small dollar claims – often no more than a couple of bucks – in unpaid taxes to lure you into clicking dodgy links.If you bought anything big recently, reach out to the store or vendor. It’s almost guaranteed that the store didn’t just forget to charge you enough tax. We promise.
- Form W-2 scam. These thieves ask for a copy of your IRS Wage and Tax Statement. There are many flavors of this scam. Some also try to use wire transfers, titles/escrows, fake invoices and so on. Simple response: Do not send your W-2. Period. Or anything else. If scammers try this one, mail the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org (Subject: W2 Scam), or for the other variations contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Know what’s happening
The IRS will never call to essentially shake you down for quick payment (or to offer an out-of-the-blue refund). They’ll mail a bill first – several, in fact. They’ll also give you plenty of chances to air your side of a tax dispute over a long time, with representation for you and impartial judges making the decision.
If a scammer calls, record the number and hang up immediately. Call us, of course, but you can also call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at (800) 366-4484 or see TIGTA’s hotline page. Also, report the number to email@example.com and put “IRS Phone Scam” in the subject line.
If you receive an email that claims to be from the IRS asking for your personal information or spouting nonsense about taxes from a large investment, inheritance, or lottery, don’t reply and NEVER click on any links or open any attachments (hello, malware). Email firstname.lastname@example.org and they can tell you more.
The same goes for text messages: Forward the text as-is to the IRS at 202-552-1226. If you can, in a separate text, forward the originating number to the same number.
And should you get an old-fashioned letter in the mail, don’t be fooled by well-copied logos and a lack of typos. Show any mail to us ASAP and do not call the number on the letter.
While we’re on the topic, here’s the latest word on scams involving Social Security (another favorite area of crooks).
In addition to the shopworn threats of immediate arrest, if you don’t cough up the cash, scams threaten to suspend your Social Security number or claim to need your personal info or payment to activate a cost-of-living adjustment or other benefits increase. Scammers have also been known to use legitimate names of Office of Inspector General or Social Security Administration employees, spoof government or even police phone numbers, and send official-looking documents by mail or attachments through email, text, or social media messages. Do not open and do not reply.
You can keep up with the latest word on scams from the IRS and the Social Security Administration on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, or by subscribing to email alerts.
We know taking care of taxes can feel hard enough without worrying about potential scams. That’s why we’re here to help you deal with tax season in all ways – including when a crook tries to take advantage of you.