As we move into tax season, we want to encourage all our readers to be vigilant and watch out for scammers. These fraudsters will use any means necessary to separate you from your hard-earned money. Here is what you need to keep an eye out for.
In 2021, scammers increased their use of text messages impersonating the IRS. Many of the messages referenced COVID-19 or “stimulus payments.” Most of the messages have links that claim to be the IRS website or other official websites. Once the taxpayer clicks on the link, the website may ask for personal identification information or a malicious file may be automatically downloaded onto your phone or computer without you realizing it. This malicious software may make your device accessible to the scammer or may allow them to track activity on your phone or computer. Please remember that the IRS will not send you an unsolicited text message nor will they message you through social media. Also, the IRS will not initiate contact with a taxpayer through email. Most IRS contact comes through regular mail.
If you do receive a text or social media message claiming to be from the IRS, do not click on the link or respond to the message. Take a screenshot of the message and send the screenshot by email to [email protected] along with the date and time you received the message and your phone number that received the message. If you receive an email purporting to be from the IRS, forward the email to the same email address.
Another big scam in 2020 and 2021 was unemployment fraud. Fraudsters would file for and collect unemployment benefits using a taxpayer’s name and identification. The taxpayer would be unaware of the fraud until receiving mail from a government agency about the benefits or they received a Form 1099-G reporting unemployment benefits they did not receive or did not file for. If you believe you are a victim of this scam, visit the U.S. Department of Labor DOL.gov/fraud page. This page will give you information on how to report the fraud and how to request a corrected Form 1099-G.
One cannot talk about scams without mentioning telephone scams. Almost everyone has received a scam call, sometimes several in one day. Criminals will “spoof” legitimate phone numbers, including IRS offices or police departments, to convince the victim the call is legitimate. Remember the IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment.
- Threaten to bring in law enforcement if immediate payment is not made.
- Demand that payment be made without giving the taxpayer a chance to question the amount owed.
- Ask for credit or debit card information over the phone.
- Insist that payment be made by prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer.
If you do owe money to the IRS, they will first send you a bill by mail. All tax payments should be made payable to the U.S. Treasury. Never make checks payable to third parties. Mail the check to the address listed on the bill or make the payment online at irs.gov/payments. Have you received an email, text, or phone call and are wondering if it’s legitimate? You can always reach out to the experienced staff at Crystal Financial with questions. We’re always happy to help!Judith Ackland has more than 26 years of experience in accountancy and financial planning, including seventeen years as a CFO of a diverse business. She started Crystal Financial in 2010 to help a wide array of individuals, families, and business owners better understand their finances and how good financial management could help them achieve their goals. Judith has an MA in Professional Accountancy from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln as well as a Certified Public Accountant Certificate and a Certified Financial Planner designation.