Just because you might be taking a summer vacation from the job doesn’t mean that crooks are also taking a break from their work. Unfortunately, scam artists seem to never go on holiday. That’s one reason the IRS is warning people nationwide about three summer tax scams.
Avoiding these cons requires equal parts of common sense, vigilance, and consumer awareness. According to the IRS, here are the three summer tax scams you need to know.
1. Identity Theft Scams
If you’re the victim of identity theft, a thief steals or misuses your personal and financial information, like your social security number or bank account data. Crooks do this to commit fraud, like opening a credit account in your name or even filing a bogus tax return in order to get a fraudulent refund.
The IRS has made strides in recent years to try to diminish tax-related identity theft. The agency even has a special identity protection page on IRS.gov, where you can learn about how to minimize your chances of becoming a victim.
But identity theft is still one of the fastest-growing white-collar crimes in the country. And the crooks often manage to stay one step ahead of the authorities. So you should be on guard in many ways, such as monitoring your credit reports, not divulging your social security number to just anyone, and keeping close tabs on your mail.
2. Phone Scams
With telephone scams, con artists pretend they are IRS agents in order to dupe you out of your money. Fraudsters will call you on the phone, and use scare tactics to get you to send money via wire transfer or a prepaid debit card. This con works far more often than you might think, because so many unsuspecting people fall for it when someone calls claiming that back taxes or alleged “overdue taxes” are owed.
Sometimes these so-called “IRS agents” make scary and serious threats—like claiming you’ll be arrested or deported—and that’s why shaken-up taxpayers just pay without much push back.
The situation sounds even more real if the thief already knows the last four digits of your social security number or some other pertinent data about you. Plus, some scammers also know how to rig caller ID to falsely show that the call is from the IRS.
But make no mistake, the IRS will never call you to collect on a tax debt. IRS agents also won’t email, text or reach out to you via social media. So if someone contacts you through one of those methods claiming to be from the IRS, that’s a sure-fire sign of a con.
Furthermore, the IRS doesn’t ask for payment with a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer.
So even if you think you owe taxes, and you get one of these calls, hang up. Then call the real IRS phone number at 800-829-1040 if you need to work out a tax payment plan. If you don’t owe taxes, call and report the attempted fraud incident to the treasury inspector general for tax administration at 800-366-4484.
3. Phishing Scams
According to the feds, criminals use the IRS as bait in phishing scams.
Scammers usually send emails that supposedly originated from the IRS. And the crook lures his or her target by promising a big refund check—or sometimes by threatening a tax audit.
But again, the IRS doesn’t contact people by email about their taxes. Instead, the agency relies on good old-fashioned snail mail. So if you really do owe the IRS, rest assured that you’ll get a letter in the mail.
If you get a phishing email—where a crook is trying to get you to divulge sensitive personal or financial data—simply do not click on a link or open any attachments. Instead, forward it to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By being alert, keeping your wits about you, and using common sense, you can sidestep these three summer tax scams.