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Warning! They are not the IRS.

It’s hard to believe, but during these unusual times, there are scammers out there pretending to be the IRS.

By Andrea MacDonald, CPA

Common IRS Tax Scams and How to Avoid Them

1. Demanding a fee to access your tax refund or stimulus payment

If you receive any messages asking for a small fee in exchange for your tax refund or stimulus check, don’t fall for it. Most Americans don’t need to take any action to receive their stimulus payments. You will not need to pay a fee or give your Social Security number to a third party.

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2. Phone calls impersonating IRS agents

This is a common scam year-round. In this scam, someone may call you and impersonate an IRS agent. They may threaten to cancel your Social Security number or may also “warn” you that your identity has been stolen. They’ll tell you that you need to make an immediate payment or buy gift cards to remedy the situation. If you get any calls like this — hang up immediately. Don’t give the caller any information. The IRS will never call you, and they won’t ask you to make any transactions over the phone.

3. Fake calls from debt collectors

Do you have any overdue tax payments? If so, the IRS may assign your debt to a private debt collection agency. When it does this, the IRS will send you a letter to let you know, and you’ll have a chance to file an appeal first. Has someone called you demanding immediate payment on overdue taxes? You should hang up right away. Collection agency officials must immediately identify themselves. Although they will ask for payment to the U.S. Treasury, they can’t enforce this demand. Keep in mind — IRS and collection agents will never ask you for payment information over the phone.

4. Threats of arrests, visa withdrawal, or deportation

The IRS has no legal jurisdiction to arrest or deport anyone. In addition, the agency cannot reverse your citizenship or immigration status. If someone calls you claiming to be from the IRS and they threaten you with any of these things, hang up. Do not give them any of your personal information out of fear.

5. Hacking your electronic tax filing software

If you use a filing software to file and pay your income taxes, you should take some precautions. Scammers are always waiting for an opportunity to steal your identity. In fact, scammers can hack into your software and steal personal data. They may even file a fraudulent return on your behalf. To avoid this, consider using a secure password and two-factor authentication. You should never file your taxes over a public WiFi network. In addition, you should also avoid storing sensitive tax documents on your computer. Your computer should also be password protected.

6. Unverified requests for bank information or other tax data

Never provide sensitive data through any unverified portals. This goes for taxes, bank information, and any other private data. Don’t email or text your tax data, and don’t give it to anyone over the phone. You should also verify the legitimacy of every form you fill out. That’s because scammers may change existing tax forms to steal your personal information. Have you gotten any calls lately claiming to be from the FDIC or the Taxpayer Advocate Service? While these are real agencies, neither of them will ever attempt to call or email you out of the blue. Chances are, a scammer is posing as a government agent to gather your information and sell it.

7. Phishing text messages and emails claiming to be the IRS

If you get any emails or text messages claiming to be from the IRS, delete them and don’t click on any links. Scammers posing as the IRS often send out links that could install malware onto your device. Using this malware, the scammers can steal your personal information. Phishing messages might also ask you for personal information, like your Social Security number. Scammers can then use this information to file a fraudulent tax return on your behalf. If you get any communication like this, ignore it and report the phishing to the IRS.

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Why do scammers scam?

Have you ever wondered what scammers are trying to do by contacting you? They have a variety of goals in mind. It might be to access your personal information to steal your identity. They might also be trying to access your tax documents and Social Security number. With this information, they can file a fraudulent return on your behalf. They can get credit cards and loans in your name with your social security number. Ultimately, they want to make some money — and stealing your information is their avenue to do so.

Ways to Protect Yourself

As I’ve said, never give out your personal information. And remember, that the IRS has no authority over your citizenship status. There are simple ways to electronically protect yourself.

  • Install Malware software and Virus protection on your computer.
  • Use secure passwords with letters, numbers, and characters to make it hard to guess.
  • Password protect all your cell and WiFi mobile devices.
  • Use two-factor authentication for logins.
  • Use private internet access with login requirements.
  • Invest in 3rd party identity protection and monitoring.

How to report scams to the IRS

If you have come across these and other scams, you should report them to the IRS. Has someone contacted you impersonating the IRS? You can report them to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Have you received scam phone calls? You can report those to the Federal Trade Commission. And, as mentioned above, you can report any phishing attempts to the IRS. Do you suspect that you’ve been the victim of identity theft? You should immediately file a police report.

The Takeaway

Now that you’ve read all about common IRS tax scams, there are a few things you should remember. The IRS, FDIC, and other federal agencies will never call, text, or email you out of the blue. They will never demand payment over the phone or threaten to arrest you or cancel your Social Security number if you don’t pay them. They will never ask you to provide sensitive data through any unverified avenues.

There are several ways to protect yourself from all these tax scams. If you ever get calls claiming to be the IRS or another federal agency, hang up. If you receive emails containing suspicious links, ignore and report them. You should also educate yourself on your rights as a taxpayer. A seasoned Certified Public Accountant (CPA) like Pro Tax & Accounting owner Andrea MacDonald can help you do that. Give Pro Tax & Accounting a call today!

If reading this has created more questions → Email Us!

Andrea MacDonald, CPA is the owner of Pro Tax & Accounting in Chesapeake, Virginia. For nearly two decades, she has been working with businesses on their bookkeeping, accounting, and taxes. She also works with individuals and families on their tax returns. Andrea is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and a qualified bookkeeper and tax professional. She is well-versed in tax law, which makes her an invaluable resource for any business. 

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