The tax season 2018 has begun. IRS warns about high risk of scams
On January 29, 2018, The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officially announced the beginning of tax season. In addition, authorities warned the nation about the increased activity of cybercriminals. Cybersecurity experts point out to e-mail and phone call scams as the most common phishing strategies used by cyber crooks for stealing people's personal information.
According to Security Summit partners, scammers have already started distributing scam emails disguising under the name of IRS and trying to obtain personal information, including names, addresses, e-mail addresses and Social Security numbers, from tax practitioners.
The risk of scams during the tax season is expected to be higher this year
Although the Security Summit Partners noticed a significant decrease of cyber crimes during the tax season 2017, this year tax refund might be fueled by the past cyber crimes, Equifax in particular.
As a quick reminder, Equifax is one of the biggest data breaches which was revealed in September 2017. The crime left an unknown number (approx. 143 million) of Americans scammed.
Identity thieves have stolen people's Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver's license numbers and similar personal information, which, according to Avivah Litan, cybersecurity analyst at Gartner, is “exactly the kind of data that the criminals use to commit tax refund fraud and other kinds of tax scams.”
Do not fall for fake IRS emails and calls
According to cybersecurity experts, people should be aware of the fake emails and calls from the IRS. People may get an email from fake IRS executives asking them for a copy of the W-2 form from employees. If the victim falls for this trick, he or she provides criminals information that is necessary for filing tax refund. Such data can also be sold on the dark Web.
IRS estimated that more than 10,000 Americans had fallen victims to tax identity theft and had paid over $54 million counting from 2013 and 2017 this way.
One of the IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, urges people not to fall for phony calls, even if the person, pretending to be from IRS, knows much about you. In most of the cases, criminals use fake IRS identification numbers, caller IDs and similar information to trick people into believing that the caller or sender is IRS.
Don't be fooled by surprise phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents with threats or promises of a big refund if you provide them with your private information.
Submit an Identity Theft Affidavit if you suspect you are a victim of scam
If you found out that more than one tax refund was filed for your name, you should immediately contact IRS. If you suspect that you are a victim of identity theft, file a complaint with the FTC at identitytheft.gov. Furthermore, contact major credit bureaus and ask them to mark your credit records with “fraud alert.” Tax-related identity theft should also be reported to IRS by calling for the official IRC number provided on the company's official website.
The victim of tax return scam should also complete the IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. This applies to those whose e-file return was rejected due to the duplicate filling.
Be prepared for the tax season and protect your taxes from being filed by scammers
The most important precautionary measure that you have to take before diving into the water of tax returns is the awareness of all the necessary procedures and the risks that you take.
Thus, before planning to file a tax refund, you have to know that:
- IRS does not call customers to demand immediate payment.
- The calls from IRS will now be held via wire transfer or prepaid debit card.
- The company does not demand the taxpayer to pay without the ability to ask questions or appeal.
- It does not threaten taxpayers to bring in local police, immigration officers, and other law enforcement.
- Never fails to indicate official credentials in the form of a pocket commission and HSPD-12 card, a government standard for employees and contractors, in the case of a personal visit.
Finally, if you received a call that you suspect to be an IRS scam, you should hand up immediately and report the number to the IRS immediately. To prevent the frauds from calling you again, you can include the spoof's number to the blocked list.
In case pretend-to-be IRS assignee contacted you via e-mail and asking for your personal information, please forward the email to the email@example.com.