It's tax filing season, but did you know that it is also phishing season? Tax phishing scams abound at this time of year, and each year they grow more sophisticated. Historically, these scams were aimed at individuals, but there are now scams involving companies as well.
Here are some tips to help you file your taxes with the IRS and stay out of the hacker’s phishing net!
Be alert to email phishing and telephone scams:
- In a new twist announced by the IRS earlier this month, there is an emerging phishing email scheme that purports to be from company executives and requests personal information on employees. This scam has been aimed at payroll and human resource professionals within companies.
As a general rule DO NOT respond to any unsolicited emails OR telephone calls which purport to be from the IRS.
- The IRS will never call you demanding money for unpaid tax bills, request payment by credit/debit card over the phone or threaten law enforcement action. If you get this type of call, hang up.
- Don’t be fooled by a caller ID that appears to be coming from the IRS - numbers and caller ID’s can be faked.
- The IRS never sends out unsolicited emails, and under no circumstance will request credit card information and pin numbers through email. Persons receiving emails that claim to be from the IRS should not attempt to visit any site contained within the email and should report suspicious emails.
- Don't file from a link in an email purporting to be from the IRS.
- The IRS will not request that you verify your identity by contacting you by phone or through email. If you receive such calls or emails, they are likely a scam.
- Any initial contact by the IRS will always be via mail. As noted the IRS will not contact you via telephone demanding payment for an unpaid tax bill or to obtain any other personal information.
- The IRS website offers more information regarding types of identity theft and ways to prevent or avoid and a list of several popular scams online.
- File return securely.
- If e-filing, make sure you are filing from a secure connection NOT a public Wi-Fi connection and also make sure your computer has most up-to-date anti virus software.
- If mailing a return mail it directly from the Post office or give it directly to a carrier. Don’t leave it in an unattended mailbox to be picked up.
- Don’t leave tax returns and personal papers on your desk or in open areas accessible to others.
- Shred any documents containing personal identifying or sensitive company information – don’t throw away in general trash where this information can be retrieved.
- Fraudulent returns
- In the event your personal information may have been stolen thieves can use this information to file fraudulent returns under your name and social security number. These scams became very common in 2015, and they will likely continue this year. You may find out you’re a victim when you file your return. If you e-file and find that your identity has been stolen, your return will be rejected by the IRS. If you originally mailed your tax return, you will receive a notice in the mail from the IRS stating that someone has already filed using your Social Security number.
- Act fast - notify and work with the IRS as quickly as possible and notify your financial institutions and credit reporting agency.
- Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 and report the theft. The next step is to fill out Form 14039, the Identity Theft Affidavit, available at irs.gov
- Report the fraud to the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.
- Consider filing a police report and a complaint with the FTC and placing a fraud alert on your credit-report account and monitoring your credit reports for unfamiliar accounts or activity.
- If you live in Florida, Georgia or the District of Columbia – areas with high rates of tax-return fraud –consider obtaining a PIN number from the IRS. Be aware that once you have been assigned a PIN all future returns must be filed using the PIN; returns without a PIN will be rejected by the IRS.
- Be patient – in this situation it can take some time to sort through everything, complete the process and receive your refund.