As tax season fast approaches once again, so too unfortunately does tax fraud season.
Tax fraud scams take various forms, but once you know what to look for, you can guard against them. Here’s what you need to know to avoid falling prey to such scams this year.
Filing your legitimate return as early as possible helps prevent scammers from getting a fraudulent return accepted. The Internal Revenue Service accepts only one return per social security number (SSN). By being the first to file under your own SSN, you deny scammers the chance to file a fraudulent return.
TIP: If your legitimate return is rejected by the IRS, act immediately, as this may mean that a scammer has already filed a fraudulent return using your SSN. If you receive such a rejection, or believe a false return was filed without your knowledge, take the following steps immediately!
- Call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 for guidance.
- Complete Form 14039-Identity Theft Affidavit to prove that you’re the real taxpayer.
- Notify your local police department.
- Notify the University Police Department at 608-264-2677.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
- Email the UW-Madison Office of Cybersecurity so they can keep track of campus victims. Never include your Social Security Number or any other personal data in email messages.
Other warning signs include:
- Owing taxes for a year that you did not file a tax return.
- IRS information shows that you received wages from an employer for whom you did not work.
Beware of emails claiming to be from the IRS
- The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers via email or social media. If you receive such an email, odds are it is a phishing scam.
- The official IRS website is www.irs.gov and any legitimate IRS webpage will begin with irs.gov. Beware imitations such as “irsgov” or “irs.net”
- Don’t reply to, click links, or open attachments from any such email. Forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org and delete the original.
Don’t disclose personal information over the phone to callers claiming to be “IRS agents”
Scammers may call you on the phone, claiming to be an IRS agent and informing you of an unpaid tax bill, or telling you that you’re entitled to a large return. They may even spoof caller ID data to make it appear that they are actually calling from the IRS. Phone scams are easily recognized, if you’re aware that the IRS will never do any of the following:
- Call to demand immediate payment or call at all without first mailing you a bill.
- Demand that you pay taxes without an opportunity to appeal or question the amount owed.
- Require a specific payment method.
- Ask for a credit/debit card number over the phone.
- Threaten to have you arrested for not paying.
You can avoid these scams by being vigilant and knowledgeable about possible threats. Filing early, and keeping your personal data safe and confidential significantly reduce your chance of being defrauded.