It’s time to roll up your 1099, W2s, or other forms to see if you owe Uncle Sam or get a big fat refund. It also means that tax fraud will be everywhere. The IRS will never text you, and while criminals will try to text, email, and more, don’t fall for them.
Unfortunately, thousands of people fall victim to horrible scammers every year. And while it’s a year-round problem, we see a lot during the holidays, and then it peaks in tax season.
Nobody wants to be associated with the Internal Revenue Service, but don’t let that fear get you into trouble with a scammer. Here are some of the most common IRS tax scams, tips to help you spot one, and more details to help you stay safe.
The IRS will not text you
One of the most common scams is an IRS text message. Text fraud is an ongoing problem that comes in a variety of forms. And while the IRS has an exhaustive list of scams and frauds to avoid, texting is a big deal.
In late 2022, the IRS issued a warning to stay vigilant about text messages and never click on suspicious links. According to the tax office “New scam texts encourage taxpayers to click a link or call a phone number where criminals collect their personal or financial information. The tax office Not Send emails or text messages asking for personal or financial information or bank account numbers.”
Any text message mentioning taxes and the IRS is a scam. These are known as smishing or phishing scams, where criminals send an SMS and try to trick you into clicking a link or revealing important personal information.
If you receive an IRS text message, do not click on links, do not call phone numbers, and never give out personal or financial information. I recommend blocking the number immediately (although that rarely helps these days) and deleting the text messages.
How the IRS will contact you
Again, the IRS will never text you. If you’re wondering, “How will the IRS contact me?” We’ve got you covered. According to the official IRS.gov website, almost all contact with taxpayers is through the regular US Postal Service mail delivery system. You will receive a letter, not an SMS or a call.
It’s worth noting that while most IRS contacts are through the mail, there are some instances where they will call you, come to your home, or visit a store. These situations are rare and typically occur when you have a largely overdue tax bill, delinquent tax returns, unfiled tax returns, or delinquent wage payments.
Occasionally, the IRS will visit a company during an audit or investigation. However, it is important to note that in almost every scenario, you will first receive a letter in the mail.
Be careful with calls, emails and more
More and more people hesitate when it comes to shady text messages, which is why scammers are getting more sophisticated. They try phone calls, emails, or even create a fake website that looks very similar to the IRS government website to trick victims.
Now that you know how the IRS will contact you, look out for other methods. If you receive calls or emails, whether threatening or not, it’s probably a scam. This is especially true if you haven’t received anything in the mail yet. The IRS will first issue countless letters before even resorting to phone calls.
And while it sounds harsh, use some common sense. Many scammers claim to work for the IRS and say you’re returning taxes, misfiled them, or have a balance and owe a penalty fee. In this case you will be notified by email.
If you get a call from someone claiming to work for the IRS and want you to pay for gift cards, that should be an obvious red flag. What does the government do with a gift certificate? Nothing, this is cheating!
Stay away from IRS calls, emails, voicemails, social media contacts, or anyone calling for financial information. You should never give out your debit card, credit card or bank details. The IRS will not ask for it over the phone either.
Even if you get threatening phone calls or voicemails telling you you’re going to jail, losing your driver’s license, or losing your home. TThe IRS must follow the taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which allows you to to appeal in any case. You will never accidentally receive a threatening call or text.
You should also watch out for phone calls from “tax charities” claiming that if you donate to a good cause it would be a write-off. These exist, but random calls about them are a red flag. Last but not least, if you have already been a victim of a scam, you are likely to become the target of “recovery scams” where someone claims they can help.
If you’ve been scammed, contact a physical store near you and don’t deal with a stranger over the phone.
How to report IRS fraud
In the unfortunate event that you get scammed, or even if you didn’t fall for it, you should report any IRS scams to the right channels. There are several ways to do this, depending on the situation.
First, report all tax fraud to the IRS and file a complaint with the FTC. You can forward emails or send suspicious phone numbers to an IRS email which is [email protected] And while most SMS and call scammers spoof phone numbers, it’s still worth reporting them to the proper authorities. Then send information to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) on its website or by calling TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484.
In closing, we would like to mention that we have touched on just a few of the many different situations, scams and scams that are taking place these days. Fortunately, the IRS produces a “dirty dozen” report on tax fraud each year, and you can learn more from those reports.
Use caution and common sense, never trust strangers and stay safe out there.
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