Tax season will be here before you know it. No sooner will the holiday rush be over and you’ll have to get ready for tax day. Identity thieves and other rip-off artists know this as well, and will be on the prowl for vulnerable people. Here’s how to avoid falling victim to a tax season scammer:
Never disclose personal information over the phone or by email unless you initiate the call yourself. A popular tax season scam involves identity thieves calling or emailing unsuspecting taxpayers and impersonating IRS agents. They will typically request your social security number in order to “verify” account or to determine whether or not you will be receiving a refund. Don’t fall for it.
If you receive such a call or email, don’t comply with their request and report the call or email to local law enforcement. The IRS will never call a taxpayer first. Their first line of contact with you will be via mail. It is then up to you to call them at the number listed on the letter or notice.
The IRS will also never correspond with you via email. No matter how “official” the fake IRS email appears to be, do not click on any links or reply to it in any way. Instead, forward it to local law enforcement and/or the IRS fraud investigation unit.
Safeguarding your Social Security Number(SSN) is the best defense against tax season scam artists. Never carry it in your purse or wallet; if they’re lost or stolen thieves can get their hands on your social security card and wreck havoc, sometimes destroying your credit rating by applying for credit accounts in your name.
Never give your SSN to just anyone: legitimate parties will only ask for it if it is required, such as your HR department at the time you’re hired, or the bank or IRS when establishing or verifying an account.
Use only reputable tax prep companies when filing your taxes. Ignore the ads on Craigslist before and during tax season. If you choose to have a professional prepare and file your return, make sure they are affiliated with either a large tax prep firm, a CPA practice, or tax law firm.
If you’re taking the DIY approach to tax prep this year, use only trusted online portals and apps. If a tax prep website or app looks shady, it most likely is shady. The IRS offers a free online tax prep suite through their website.
The months leading up to tax season and tax season itself is the peak period for identity thieves and assorted other scam artists. By protecting your private information and your SSN, you can protect yourself and your family from the long-term consequences of identity theft.