Every tax season, and sometimes other times throughout the year, the scammers rear their ugly heads using various methods to gain access to your personal information. These folks are very clever and may use scare tactics to get you to reveal your social security number, bank accounts, birth date, and passwords. Remember that the only way the IRS will contact you is through the United States Postal Service.
It seems the scammers are starting earlier than usual with phishing scams—emailing you using what appears to be an official IRS seal and asking you to enter the IRS site through a link they have provided. Once you open the email or click on the link, the hacker may gain access to all of your personal information. If you received one of these emails, the IRS recommends you do the following:
1. Do not reply
2. Do not open any attachments
3. Do not click on any of the links (if you did click on a link, go to the IRS site at IRS.gov and visit their “identity protection” page)
4. Forward the email to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org
5. Delete the original message
Another other way scammers may try to contact you is by phone. They claim to be from the IRS, but odds are they are not. These creeps especially like to prey on the elderly or foreign residents who fear they will be deported if they don’t comply with the caller’s demands. If you receive one of this calls, the IRS suggests you do the following:
1. Ask for the presumed IRS employee’s name, badge number, call back number, and ID if available
2. Call 1-800-366-4484 to determine if the caller is an IRS employee who is authorized to call you
3. If they are an employee, call them back
4. If they are not an employee, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and to email@example.com using the subject of IRS phone scam
Because these frauds know that people are wising up to some of their scams, some are resorting to the USPS and faxes to contact taxpayers. This will take a little more effort on your part to confirm the letter’s authenticity, because the frauds will often use “real” IRS form letters that are modified for their purposes. If you get a letter, the IRS suggests:
1. First search the IRS home site at irs.gov for the form number you have received
2. Look for any difference in instructions between the letter you received and the one on the site
3. If it is legitimate, follow the instructions on the letter
4. If the letter appears to be fraudulent, or if you are unsure, call 1-800-829-1040
5. If the letter is not legitimate, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and to firstname.lastname@example.org
Be vigilant and don’t let these low-lifes catch you off guard. Once your personal information has been accessed it can take years for you to recover.
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