How Taxpayers Can Recognize Phishing Scams

The end of the year means tax season is upon us. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) begins to issue notices of new tax laws and alerts informing the public of the resources available on their website. The IRS has raised an alarm that everyone should take seriously – how taxpayers can recognize phishing scams and protect themselves. Here are some of the most common scams:

Payment Request

The IRS does not call taxpayers or leave messages about settling tax liabilities. If such calls or messages or received, particularly if they involve threats or suggested payment methods, like prepaid debit cards, iTunes gift cards or wired money transfers, you have probably been targeted by a telephone scammer.

Student Taxes

A popular phishing scam preys upon young students and their parents. A phone call by an IRS agent impersonator will demand payment for something like a federal student tax which does not exist.

ACA Fraud

Scammers are trying to cash in on much of the confusion surrounding the details of the relatively new Affordable Care Act. They will send fraudulent notices, usually via email, that has attached a fake version of the CP2000, and request payment that is most often directed to a post office box addressed to the IRS or to “Austin Processing Center”. An authentic CP2000 is sent via the U.S. Post Office if a taxpayer is required to be notified. If you receive a notice via email, you can compare it to an image of a real one on the IRS webpage “Understanding Your CP2000 Notice”. The IRS wants anyone who receives an email related to this particular phishing scam to forward the email to them at phishing@irs.gov and then delete the email for your own protection.

W-2 Info Request

Individual taxpayers are not the only people subject to scammers. They will also target professionals in a company’s human resources department requesting employee information. Sometimes they impersonate executives within the company. They may claim that the information is needed in order to update their own files of employees. Sometimes they indicate a need for copies of the previous tax year’s W-2s for all employees. If a company’s CEO requires information, chances are you are going to get an inter-office memo that has traveled through the appropriate chain of command rather than get an email directly from your company’s CEO.

Tax Software

Like human resources professionals, tax professionals are also targeted by scam artists. A popular scheme is to email what appears to be tax software. However, the download link is actually to malware that will track every key stroke of the tax professional. Cyber criminals can gain access to all information: passwords, log in, and customer’s sensitive data. At GPS, we use a high degree of scrutiny with emails to avoid these situations and use high-tech security software to make us aware of any breach.

Phone Verification

A scam artist calls, impersonating an IRS representative, and claims they need you to verify personal information like your social security number (SSN) or banking information, etc. The IRS does not initiate calls to taxpayers. If they need taxpayer information they send written requests through the U.S. Postal Service. The IRS does not make calls to taxpayers demanding payment or personal information.

 

The IRS reports that it has seen email scams surge as much as 400%. It is important to stay alert to the warning signs that a scammer has you in their sights. Often, gaining access to this information leads scammers to their end game: identity theft. If you have already become the victim of a phishing scam and suspect you may also be a victim of identity theft, it is important to act quickly and get the legal help you need to protect your interests. Identity thieves can destroy lives. Please contact GPS if you have any questions or have been the vitctim of idenity theft.

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