Scammers love to use current events to try and trick people out of money. Since tax season is starting, you can expect that IRS scams will also be reappearing. There are several common tactics that IRS scammers use, but the IRS does NOT do. Knowing these red flags can help keep your money and personal information safe.
The IRS does NOT:
• Initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text message, or social media to request personal or financial information. Always be wary of someone requesting sensitive information through these channels.
• Call to demand immediate payment with a specific method. We’ve mentioned before that scammers like to have you send money with gift cards and wire transfers. Anyone insisting on these forms of payment should automatically raise a red flag.
• Demand you pay taxes without option to question or appeal the amount. Scammers frequently use pressure tactics, like insisting you pay immediately and without question.
• Threaten to bring in local police, immigration, or other law enforcement to arrest you for non-payment. This is a scare tactic scammers use in hopes that you don’t question their claims and pay up quick.
• Revoke driver’s licenses, business licenses, or immigration status. This is another scare tactic used to stress and trick you into paying before you have time to think critically.
What the IRS DOES do:
• Mail the first bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
• Instructs payments be made to the “United States Treasury”.
• Provide two forms of official credentials for in-person visits.
• Notify you by mail if your tax debt has been sent to a private collection agency. The collection agency will also send you a contact letter with information on how to resolve the debt.
• Notify you by mail before attempting to make contact over the phone regarding an audit.
For more information about tax scams, visit the IRS website.
Spoofing is a technique where scammers “spoof” or falsify their identifying information to make you think it is coming from a trusted source. More advanced scammers can even make their caller ID show up on your phone as a known contact, like a family member. Other common techniques involve sending emails with official-looking logos for valid businesses, but the user’s email address will be from a personal account (ex. email@example.com) instead of from an official business account for the organization they claim to represent.
We’ve all heard of the news about Equifax and the astonishing number of 143 million individuals whose personal information may have been stolen by hackers. With so many media outlets providing coverage on this issue, it’s hard not to panic and worry about whether you are one of the victims. Since we have been let down Equifax and its security systems, we are now the ones to bear the burden of protecting ourselves from identity theft. Even if you feel that your information has not been compromised, you need to proceed as if you are one of the victims.
The most important thing you need to do is to educate yourself on what is happening, what are the implications, what to look out for, and what actions you need to take. You need to be aware of the gravity of this situation and know how this can potentially affect your life. There are dozens of articles being published by the hour on this issue. Reading even one article will give you a better knowledge on what you need to do to protect yourself.
As terrible as this is already, there are scammers out there who would use this opportunity to try to deceive people into give out their personal information. For example, if you receive any calls or emails from someone claiming to be from Equifax, do not release any of your personal information. Check the scam or fraud alerts online and educate yourself on the existing and new scams.
There are many different things you can do to protect your identity, but it’s ultimately up to you to take action. The following are links to some articles and resources you can use to protect yourself now and in the future.