It seems there’s no end to what scammers will do to steal your money or your identity. And now that it’s tax season, you need to be even more vigilant to protect your personal information. Tax scams are on the rise this year.
“With filing season underway, this is a prime period for identity thieves to hit people with realistic-looking emails and texts about their tax returns and refunds,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Watching out for these common scams can keep people from becoming victims of identity theft and protect their sensitive personal information that can be used to file tax returns and steal refunds.”
Here are some things to watch for.
According to the IRS, unemployment fraud is of particular concern. Unemployment payouts spiked dramatically during the pandemic. And with that, unemployment fraud grew, as well.
Unemployment benefits are taxable income and a 1099-G is issued to the recipient and the IRS. Unsuspecting taxpayers receive 1099-G forms for benefits they never filed for or received. Anyone who receives a fraudulent 1099-G should report it to the issuing agency as soon as possible.
Another way thieves are stealing identities this year is by using your social security number.
If you receive notice of income from a company you don’t work for, it could be a sign that someone used your social security number to get a job. If you receive a notice from the IRS that multiple tax returns have been filed in your name or with your social security number, you should contact the IRS immediately to report the issue.
The IRS does not send emails to taxpayers asking for personal information. The IRS sends letters through the United States Postal Service. If you receive an email claiming it’s from someone at the IRS, it’s most likely a phishing scam. Do not send personal information through an unverified email.
Phone and text scams
The IRS does not send text messages or leave pre-recorded messages on your voicemail asking you to go to a website link. Many of these messages may reference COVID-19 or stimulus payments. Those types of messages are typically connected to phishing scams. The IRS will only initiate contact via letter sent through the United States Postal Service.
The IRS recommends a few things you can do to protect yourself from tax season identity theft and tax fraud
- Respond immediately to any IRS notice in the mail. Call the number provided.
- Continue to pay taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper. (Note: A paper return will likely delay processing and refunds.)
- Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, if an e-filed tax return is rejected because of a duplicate filing under their SSN or if instructed to do so by the IRS. Print and attach the form to a paper return and mail according to instructions.
- If you previously contacted the IRS about tax-related identity theft but didn’t have a resolution, you should call 1-800-908-4490 for specialized assistance.
- Check your credit report for suspicious activity or unauthorized lines of credit frequently. You can request a free credit report every week through AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1- 877-322-8228.
- Freeze your credit to protect against new accounts being opened in your name if you fear you’ve been a victim of fraud or identity theft.
- File early and use a reputable tax professional.
More information is available at: IRS.gov/identitytheft or the Federal Trade Commission’s identitytheft.gov.
Keeping your sensitive information safe is imperative to protecting your assets. Taking a little extra time to verify sources asking for your personal information will save you a lot of time, stress, and possible financial repercussions like theft of funds or identity or detrimental hits to your personal credit report.