Last week, the IRS launched its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams with a staunch warning about aggressive marketing around Employee Retention Credits. It’s just one of the twelve most common schemes that put people at financial risk and increase the chances of them becoming victims of identity theft. As always, the IRS reminds taxpayers to avoid suspicious text messages and emails that may attempt to steal personal information. With the tax filing deadline quickly approaching and scammers ramping up their efforts, here’s what you need to know.
Phishing & Smishing – Don’t Get Hooked by Either One
Taxpayers and tax professionals need to remain alert to fake communications that pose as legitimate tax businesses or government agencies, including the IRS and state tax authorities. Scammers typically disguise these messages as unsolicited emails and texts that can lure you into providing valuable personal and financial information.
What is Phishing?
Phishing is an email sent by scammers claiming to come from a legitimate organization, such as the IRS. The email may use threats of legal action or false promises of a large tax refund to convince you to divulge personal information.
Is Smishing Similar to Phishing?
Yes, but instead of using email, this type of scam is delivered through a text/SMS message. The text/SMS will likely include a “warning” of suspicious activity and provide a link for you to take action. Unexpected tax refunds are also a popular way to lure you into giving out financial information.
Don’t Click on Links!
It’s important to note that the IRS initiates the majority of its contact through postal mail. Never click on a link or open an attachment from an unsolicited email or text claiming to be from the IRS. Not only can it put your personal information at risk, but can also lead to potential malware issues. In fact, there’s currently a known IRS Form W-9 tax scam that’s luring people into opening a file that downloads ransomware onto their computers. If you receive any emails or texts from IRS Online Center, DO NOT open them!
You should also refrain from responding to any suspicious communication. Instead, report the suspected scam by sending the text or email as an attachment to email@example.com. Once sent, delete the original email.
How Do I Verify It’s The IRS Contacting Me?
If you receive a communication that seems to be from the IRS but you’re not sure, there are a few ways to verify it’s legitimate.
- Go to IRS.gov and search for the letter, notice, or form on the official website. If it’s legitimate, you’ll find instructions on how to respond. You can also find information at Understanding Your Notice or Letter or by searching Forms and Instructions.
- Call 800-829-1040 (individuals) or 800-829-4933 (businesses) between the hours of 7 AM and 7 PM.
- Locate a Taxpayer Assistance Center near you or reach out to a tax professional for help.
For more information on how to protect yourself from scammers and identity theft, check out the Report Phishing and Online Scams page, as well as the Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft on IRS.gov.