With the opening of this year’s tax season on January 31, the IRS is warning individual taxpayers to beware of tax-related scams. Most of the scams come in the form of unexpected communication purportedly from the IRS or phone or phishing email scams that use the IRS as a lure. Low-income and elderly people are often common targets. In this article, learn how to protect yourself from these scams. You should know that the IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This also includes contact by text message or social media. Thus, if someone reaches out to you claiming to be the IRS and you have never contacted him or her before, it may be a scam. In addition, the IRS doesn’t ask for PINs, passwords, or other confidential information from credit cards, bank accounts, or other accounts. Other known scams include thieves posing as the IRS to send bogus tax refund schemes or warnings to pay past-due taxes. If you think you have received what may be a tax-time email scam, don’t click on any links or open any attachments contained in the email. Instead, forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The IRS website also contains helpful information about phishing scams. There are several steps to help protect yourself against tax-time scams and identity theft in general. These tips come directly from the IRS:
1. Don’t carry your Social Security card or any documents that include your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.
2 . Don’t give a business your Social Security Number or Individual Tax Payer Identification Number just because they ask. Give it only when required.
3. Protect your financial information.
4. Check your credit report every 12 months.
5. Secure personal information in your home.
6. Protect your personal computers by using firewalls and anti-spam/virus software, updating security patches, and changing passwords for Internet accounts.
7. Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact and are sure of the recipient.
8. Be careful when you choose a tax preparer. Most preparers provide excellent service, but there are a few who are unscrupulous.
The IRS also has an identity theft section of their website with helpful information and resources.