As we enter the 2020 tax season, we can be sure scam artists will be working hard to steal identities and the cash they hope comes with them. The types of scams employed are wide-ranging and continually evolving, but they all aim to turn you into a victim.
At TDECU, we’ve compiled a list of scams to watch for and how to stay safe.
Stolen identity refund fraud: Some thieves use stolen identities to file fake tax returns in the victim’s name. The thieves claim a refund is owed and have it deposited into an account. The criminals sometimes take the scam a step further and have the refund deposited into your real account – but then contact you later, posing as the IRS or a collections agency, and threaten criminal charges if you do not return the money.
Phishing emails. In this old tried-and-true scam, identity thieves send emails posing as the IRS. They tell you there is a problem verifying certain types of information or that you need to update your information online. Other times the email poses as an automatic tax reminder. The emails provide a link where you are asked to fill out a form with your personally identifying information or where a malicious file is downloaded onto your computer.
Phone scam. Criminals call you, claiming to be from the IRS, and sometimes even invite you to verify the phone number they are calling from by visiting the IRS.gov website. Because the criminals are using phone number spoofing technology, which tricks your caller ID display, it appears the criminals are calling from the IRS. This puts the victims at ease as the criminals then ask for verification of personally identifying information.
Tax transcript scam. This is an email scam in which thieves send emails that appear to be from the IRS. The email contains an attachment, which is supposed to be a tax transcript. Instead, it is malware – once you open it, a vicious and destructive file is downloaded onto your computer. This file can give the thieves control over your computer or allow them to track your keystrokes.
Tips for staying safe:
- Never carry your Social Security card or number with you.
- Don’t give your Social Security number to anyone calling you over the phone.
- Disregard emails asking for you to provide your Social Security number or other personally identifying information, regardless of whom the sender appears to be.
- Forward emails and other information about tax fraud attempts to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com or file a complaint at identitytheft.gov.
- Know that the IRS does not call or email demanding payment by any specific method. The IRS usually sends bills first through the mail.
- Know your taxpayer bill of rights.
- Look for suspicious activity, such as wages reported by an employer you don’t know, an alert indicating you owe an additional tax or a notice that an account has been created in your name.
If you know or suspect you have become a victim, place a fraud alert on your credit records with each of the three credit reporting agencies - Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Contact the IRS to report the fraud and complete the Identity Theft Affidavit. For more information on how to stay safe and protect your information, visit our Online Fraud Center.