With tax season upon us, cyber criminals are already hard at work to claim your tax refunds. These fraudsters are continuing to find new, clever ways to obtain your Social Security number (SSN) and other key personal information in order to file tax returns early in the season before you have a chance.

Last tax season, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) confirmed over 649,000 fraudulent returns were filled attempting to claim $3.1 billion in refunds.

Common Ploys to Avoid

Today, fraudsters use mail, telephone, email and text messages to set up individuals and businesses for a scam. Beware of these top tax scams currently circulating around the United States:

  • IRS Impersonation Calls – Scammers are making unsolicited phone calls impersonating the IRS or the Taxpayer Advocate Service, even going as far as spoofing the telephone numbers of these entities. These calls may come in the form of robo-calls that request a call back. Once engaged, the taxpayer is requested to verify personal information such as their Social Security number, individual taxpayer identification number and banking information. They may even demand immediate payment of taxes by a prepaid debit card or wire transfer.
  • Social Security Suspension – In this latest scam, criminals claim to be able to suspend or cancel the victim’s SSN. They may mention overdue taxes in addition to threatening to cancel the person’s SSN. If taxpayers receive a call threatening to suspend their SSN for an unpaid tax bill, they should just hang up.
  • Refund Phishing Emails – Fraudsters are sending unsolicited emails related to refunds, electronic returns or tax accounts to taxpayers pretending to be the IRS. The emails contain a “temporary password” or “one-time password” to access the files. But when taxpayers try to access these, it turns out to be a malicious file.
  • W-2 Scams – Targeting payroll and human resources professionals, this recent Form W-2 scam has emerged as one of the most dangerous in the tax community. Cybercriminals trick payroll personnel or people with access to payroll information into disclosing sensitive information related to their Form W-2 for their entire workforce.
  • Tax Transcript Malware – Emails impersonating the IRS and using tax transcripts as bait to entice users to open documents are containing malware. The scam is especially problematic for businesses whose employees might open the malware because this malware can spread throughout the network and potentially take months to successfully remove.
  • ‘Ghost’ Tax Preparers – Avoid having your return completed by a ‘ghost’ preparer. By law, anyone who is paid to prepare or assist in preparing federal tax returns must have a valid 2019 Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Paid preparers must sign the return and include their PTIN. ‘Ghost’ prepares do not sign the return. Instead, they print the return and tell the taxpayer to sign and mail it to the IRS. Or, for e-filed returns, they prepare but refuse to digitally sign it as the paid preparer. In this scam, the fraudster typically requires cash for their services and directs refunds into their own bank accounts.

For a complete list of known tax scam, visit the IRS’ website.

Protect Yourself

As a reminder, the IRS does not use unsolicited emails, text messages or phone calls to verify sensitive data, relay the status of a refund or share sensitive documentation such as a tax transcript. If you suspect something is not right, follow your gut and don’t engage. Report any suspicious emails to phishing@irs.gov. If you want to verify contact from the IRS, contact your local IRS office directly.

Source: www.irs.gov