The scammers come out around tax time. For many tax-paying Americans that means April 15, but those who filed an extension must pay by October 15. According to the Internal Revenue Service, taxpayers need to be on the lookout for scammers who use this date as an excuse to try and steal money or personal information from unsuspecting victims.
Posing as IRS agents, these criminals try a variety of methods, but the most common are telephone scams, phishing or donation requests. There are, however, oneself.
- How it works: Posing as IRS employees, these people call their victims and insist on the immediate payment of a debt. The person on the phone may threaten lawsuits, or to call law enforcement. They may even have their caller ID show that they are from a state or federal agency.
- The proper response: Immediately hang up the phone because the IRS never calls or threatens taxpayers.
- How it works: Victims will receive an email to their business account from someone appearing to be from the IRS (complete with an official looking seal). They request sensitive information and may ask the victim to open attachments supposedly for taxpayer account access. These will direct the victim to a website where the scammers install malicious software.
- The proper response: Never provide sensitive information online to strangers, regardless of who they claim to be. The IRS does not contact taxpayers via email or social media.
Fake charitable giving requests
- How it works: These people will set up fake charities particularly in times of turmoil, such as natural disasters. They may call, email or even show up at your door. They are not above preying upon victims of natural disasters, trying to get personal information so that they can “help.”
- The proper response: Never give personal information or money without verifying if they are who they say they are. Be careful to check the name of the charity — you can even go to the list of exempt organizations kept by the IRS to see if it is there. It is recommended to donate via check or electronic payment, so it is documented.
An attorney can provide guidance
Taxpayers need to be vigilant against fraud, but it is still important to contact an attorney if they get a letter in the mail from the state or the IRS that says there is a tax code violation, tax lien or some other dispute. A lawyer with tax law experience can help the taxpayer appeal the audit or resolve the issue in an equitable manner.