Should you respond to an e-mail or phone call claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)?
The short answer, no. Phone and e-mail phishing scams are still on the top of the IRS’s “Dirty Dozen” tax scams for 2016. Numerous online scams are circulating this time of year in an attempt to steal people’s tax refunds, bank accounts, and identities.
Be on the lookout for unsolicited e-mails, texts, social media posts that ask you to share valuable personal and financial information. According to Truste and the National Cyber Security Alliance, 75% of Americans believe they adequately protect their personal online data, yet statistics show they don’t take the appropriate precautions to do so. Only 39% look for a website’s privacy trust seal/logo, or lock icon before deciding whether to trust the site.
The IRS has received new reports of scammers impersonating IRS employees and calling to verify tax return information over the phone. The scam tries to get you to give up personal information such as a Social Security number or personal financial information, such as bank numbers or credit cards.
Last month, The IRS discovered that their Electronic Filing PIN application on IRS.gov was accessed by hackers. Using previously stolen personal data, identity thieves used malware to generate more than 100,000 tax return PIN codes. The IRS said no personal taxpayer data was stolen, only the tax return PIN codes. The IRS is taking immediate steps to notify affected taxpayers by mail.
Remember, the IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
According to the IRS, if you know you don’t owe taxes, follow these guidelines:
- Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
- Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page. You can also call 800-366-4484.
- Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
Carefully select the tax sites you visit and always secure your computer with the latest security updates and anti virus. If you are concerned your personal information has been stolen please visit IdentityTheft.gov to report the crime and find out how you can recover from potential identity theft.
The IRS has many more resources and contact information listed here in case of identity theft.