Ways to spot income tax fraud
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As if tax season wasn't stressful enough, it's also a time when fraudsters seek opportunities for a big payday. To help keep your money where it belongs, check out these 4 tips to spot income tax scams and how to avoid them.
Scammers typically contact you via:
- Phone call
- Text message
The IRS does not use threatening tactics
The IRS will never call you and demand immediate payment, especially by debit card, gift card, or wire transfers. Scammers will use scare tactics like putting a lien on your house or arresting you to try and get you to pay. Scammers know emotions cloud your judgment and may make it easier to take your money.
The IRS initiates most contacts with taxpayers through regular mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. If you’re contacted via phone, text, or email, beware! It may be a scam.
Beware of replying to messages
If you receive a text, e-mail, call, or letter from the “IRS” asking you to click a link, reply, or call them back — check it out first!
Scammers will often create fake websites with lookalike web addresses or send emails that look legitimate. Similarly, they might send a text message or leave a message asking you to reply to a phone number. Don’t do it! Research the phone number or web address before responding. The best way to avoid falling victim is to not engage. Scammers can be very persuasive.
Independently verify information
To confirm the status of your IRS account, go to irs.gov and log in. This allows you to see if you owe on past years’ taxes. You can also check the status of expected refunds.
The Federal Trade Commission offers a wealth of resources to help you avoid scams. Visit ftc.gov for more tips on scams and fraud.
Requests for sensitive or personal information
Giving personal information to strangers may lead to identity theft and a lost income tax refund.
- Account number
- Card number
- Social Security Number
- Personal information
Don’t be fooled if scammers have your address. It’s easy to get. Someone may try to use that information to earn credibility. If the call is legitimate, they won’t mind if you hang up and independently contact the IRS directly.
Requests for money back
If money is deposited into your account out of the blue or if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. This can happen by both check or electronic transfer.
The IRS will not ask you to give back part of your personal income tax refund. This fraudulent tactic is often followed by a notification that the money was accidentally deposited into your account. A scammer will ask you to return the money by cash, a cashier’s check, or have it wired to a financial institution other than yours. Don’t give away your hard-earned money!
FAQs about how the IRS makes contact
Does the IRS contact you by phone?
Yes, the IRS may contact you by phone. But when they first contact you about unpaid taxes, it’s typically done via mail. If you do get a phone call claiming to be from the IRS, always question the phone number. Caller ID names and numbers can be spoofed!
How will the IRS contact me?
The IRS will:
- Send you mail via U.S. Postal Service
- Call you
- Show up at your door
The IRS does not use email, texts, or social media to discuss tax debts or refunds. And remember, they will never threaten you during contact.
How can I tell if an IRS letter is real?
The best thing to do is contact the IRS to verify the communication you received. Be sure to use contact information from a source other than the letter you are questioning.