There is just over a month left to file your taxes by the April 17th deadline if you have not done so already. This time of year, is also peak season for tax collection scams, and the longer you wait to file your returns, the more chances a scam artist might have to use your information to steal your money or personal information. According to Time, close to 20 percent of Americans still wait until April to file their returns.
Tax-related scams are among the most stubborn cons out there. Although, they are no longer one of the top ten riskiest scams, according to Better Business Bureau’s 2017 Risk Report, there has still been more than 3,500 reports filed on BBB Scam Tracker since January 2017. They reappear often, each time with a slightly different spin.
In the most recent version of this scam, which triggered an urgent warning from the IRS last month, thieves use phishing and other schemes to steal client data from tax professionals. Then, using that data, they file fraudulent tax returns and use the taxpayers’ real bank accounts to deposit erroneous tax refunds. Finally, the thieves, posing as IRS, debt collection agency officials or law enforcement, call attention to the error and ask taxpayers to return the money to them.
These imposters often go to great lengths to appear real. The scammer may give a fake badge number and name. Your caller ID may look like the call is coming from Washington, D.C. In many instances, these scams start with a serious and official sounding “robocall” recording.
Another scam to look out for is tax identity theft. This occurs when a scammer uses your Social Security number to file a tax return in your name and collect your refund. It can also be someone using your information to get a job. Consumers don’t usually realize they have been victims of tax identity theft until they get a written notice from the IRS saying that more than one tax return was filed, or they were paid by an employer they don’t know.
BBB Serving the Heart of Texas has the following tips to avoid becoming a victim of this all-too-common scam:
1. Be wary if you are being asked to act immediately. Scammers typically try to push you into action before you have had time to think. The IRS will give you the chance to question or appeal what you owe.
2. The IRS doesn’t call, text or email. The IRS won’t call about payments or overdue taxes without first contacting you by mail.
3. Don’t wire money or use a prepaid debit card. The IRS says it will never demand immediate payment, require a specific form of payment, or ask for credit card or debit card numbers over the phone.
4. Get an IP PIN. You can get an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) from the IRS before you file your return. This is a six-digit number, which, in addition to your Social Security number, confirms your identity. This can be done at IRS.gov.
If you are the victim of tax identity theft in the U.S., contact the IRS at 1-800-908-4490. You can also file a report at BBB.org/scamtracker.