You can almost set your clock by it. As the 2014 tax season approaches, the crooks, con men and various other low-lifes who want to separate you from your money will begin slithering out from under their rocks.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is warning taxpayers to be particularly watchful for tax-related scams using the IRS name.
These scams can take many forms, with perpetrators posing as the IRS in everything from e-mail refund schemes to phone impersonators.
You need to know that the IRS does NOT initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. It also does not ask for personal identification numbers (PINs), passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Should you receive such communications, do NOT open any attachments or click on any links contained therein. Instead, forward the e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional information on how to report phishing scams involving the IRS is available on the IRS website.
In addition, the IRS continues to aggressively expand its efforts to protect and prevent refund fraud involving identity theft as well as work with federal, state and local officials to pursue the perpetrators of this fraud.
Protecting yourself: what to do
- Refrain from carrying your Social Security card or any documents that include your Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
- Don’t give a business your SSN or ITIN just because they ask. Give it only when required.
- Protect your financial information.
- Check your credit report every 12 months.
- Secure personal information in your home.
- Protect your personal computers by using firewalls and anti-spam/virus software, updating security patches and changing passwords for Internet accounts.
- Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact and are sure of the recipient.
Check 'em out
You also should be very careful when choosing a tax preparer. While most preparers provide excellent service to their clients, a few unscrupulous return preparers file false and fraudulent tax returns and ultimately defraud their clients. It is important to know that even if someone else prepares your return, you are ultimately responsible for all the information on the tax return.
Tips to help you choose a tax preparer are available on the IRS website.