This past Monday marked the federal filing deadline for most taxpayers across the country, which provides an opportune time for a refresher on the inevitable IRS-themed scams and impersonators coming to a phone and computer near you.
Now that many of us have filed our federal taxes, scammers have shifted their IRS-themed schemes to the post-filing period. As a friendly reminder, here are some of the top IRS scams and narratives circulating via phone, text and email.
This is a Real IRS Agent Calling, We Need Your Social Security Number…
The most common IRS-themed scam tends to be communication you get out of the blue stating that an urgent matter requires your immediate attention.
Usually under the context of your return being rejected, money being owed or a pending audit, these scams follow the tried-and-true method of threatening that if you don’t pay immediately, law enforcement will intervene. In more recent years, themes of stimulus-related tax issues and threats of deportation have joined the scammer playbook as well.
Call Us Immediately…
Another way scammers use during post-tax filing season is through email, texts and voicemails, providing the same urgency as unsolicited calls but leave a call back number for the recipient. The phone number leads back to a scam call center or individual who presents the same scam pitch as the aforementioned unsolicited scam calls.
Click Here to Avoid Jail…
The popular phishing and smishing (fraudulent texts) attack uses the same urgency/threats the phone calls do and provides links that the recipient can click on to “get more information,” “pay the outstanding tax bill” or “access their IRS account.” These malicious links may download malware directly onto the phone or lead to imposter websites built to mimic legitimate pages with the sole purpose of stealing the recipient’s personal information.
Also, it is important to never download an attachment from unconfirmed email sources, as these are just as dangerous as malicious links.
We Take Amazon Gift Cards…
The gift card scam is another approach appearing with the post-tax filing deadline and consists of unsolicited phone calls or texts encouraging taxpayers to purchase gift cards or prepaid debit cards to pay off fraudulent tax debts. And as crazy as the idea of the IRS encouraging you to go buy $1,000 in Amazon gift or prepaid debit cards to pay your tax bill is, these scams exist because they work.
If you get one of these calls, simply hang up. And if you receive a voicemail with a callback number from IRS, delete it and move on. The IRS encourages taxpayers who receive these types of calls to:
Report the number to [email protected] and be sure to put "IRS Phone Scam" in the subject line.
How to Spot Fraudulant IRS Communications
IRS scams can easily be identified and avoided by watching out for the same characteristics shared by other phishing, vishing and smishing scams.
Urgency – Any communications presented as urgent situations that require immediate action are obvious red flags.
Sensitive Information – Scam communications will eventually ask you for private data such as your social security number and bank account information.
Aggressiveness – While many fear hearing from the IRS, their communications will never be aggressive, threatening or forceful.
Too Good to Be True – On the opposite side of aggressive communications are ones that are too good to be true, such as your refund being available immediately or being asked to claim a larger than expected refund.
How to Spot Legitimate IRS Communications
It is also important to remember that the IRS may legitimately need to get in touch with you about your tax returns and will almost always initiate contact through the United States Postal Service. Even when there are special situations that require the IRS to contact a taxpayer or business, the IRS will generally send several notice letters.
Again, the IRS will never contact you in an unprofessional tone. Any correspondence you get out of the blue with aggressive tones, threats or requests for personal information is a scam. The IRS website explicitly states that the IRS will never do any of the following when communicating with taxpayers:
Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a gift card, prepaid debit card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
Demand that taxpayers pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they owe.
Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law enforcement to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
Threaten to revoke the taxpayer's driver's license, business licenses or immigration status
Remember, you can always contact the IRS directly to confirm the legitimacy of communications by contacting them via phone or their online tools listed on the IRS telephone assistance website at https://www.irs.gov/help/telephone-assistance.
About Schneider Downs Cybersecurity
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