Tax scammers are getting smarter by the day but you can outsmart them. Popular ways by which they carry out their operation include the use of emails, websites, and social media. One of their major goals is to get your personal and financial information.
Hence you have to be wary of sharing your personal or financial details online especially on unfamiliar websites, or websites that you presume to be suspicious. Moreover, it is advisable to keep your profile private in the social media space. This is because your identity can be easily stolen through this means.
Two common methods by which these scammers attract your attention are threat or enticement. They can either threaten you with tax audits or entice you with a tax refund.
You must note that the IRS will not send you some random or unsolicited email requesting sensitive personal or financial information such as your Personal Identification Number (PIN) or your Social Security Number (SSN). The popular means by which the IRS reaches out to anyone at first is via mail which is usually delivered by the U.S. postal service.
I’d be lying if I suggest to you that it will be easy for you to detect all scams because like earlier stated, these guys are very smart, they often appear legitimate and professional. They go all the way out even to the extent of using IRS information and logo, all to prove their ‘authenticity.’ Nevertheless, there are some signs you should look out for which includes:
– Online offers that appear too good to be true, especially the ones that ask that you click a link to access the offer
– Unsolicited emails from the IRS. The IRS will never email you from the blues, or without first communicating with you via postal service.
– Request for sensitive personal or financial information such as your PIN, social security number, or even your credit card number.
– Incorrect spelling, suspicious phrasing, or grammar when referring to government agencies or the IRS.
The most common scam methods as listed by the IRS are:
– Phony tax preparers, that is, scammers pretending to be qualified tax preparers who can help you prepare and submit your tax returns
– Phishing scams with emails or websites
– Phone call tax scams
How to identify phony Tax Return Preparers
If your Tax Preparer doesn’t input their Preparers Tax Identification Number (PTINs) on your tax return, or sign the return, or use your W-2 form when filing your return, it is a red flag.
What to do
Before approving a tax-preparer to help you with your returns, you must
– Ensure they have a PTIN
– Review the status of their license
How do you recognize phishing scams with Emails or Websites?
As earlier stated, the IRS will not send you any unsolicited email, so any email claiming to be from the IRS is a scam. Likewise, any website that requests sensitive information from you to give you a refund.
What to do
– If there is a link you are asked to click on, do not click on it.
– Do not download any attachment
– Inform the IRS about any suspicious message.
How to recognize a tax scam phone call from tax agent
You have to be wary of phone calls requesting personal information to verify your account, or some form of threat and demands for immediate payment using a wire transfer, prepaid debit card, or gift card.
What to do
– No matter how convincing a person sounds, do not give out identifying information through phone calls.
– Verify issues relating to audit or refund from the IRS.
Even in 2021, the modus operandi of these tax scammers hasn’t changed much, only that there have been some modifications which include:
Calls from Taxpayer Advocate Service A tax scam variant brought to the table this year is impersonating the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS)- a legitimate and independent division in the IRS. Fortunately, just like the IRS, TAS also does not initiate calls. Hence, any unsolicited calls claiming to be from TAS is a scam.
#1 Suspension of Social Security Number (SSN)
Another tactic these scammers came up with in 2021 is the suspension of the SSN threat. Any unsolicited call from the IRS with the caller threatening to suspend or cancel your SSN is a pure scam. Don’t pay attention to the threat, simply hand up and report such calls to the IRS.
#2 Ghost Tax Preparers
Another method by which these tax fraudsters employed in robbing unsuspecting victims of their hard-earned money in 2021 was by Ghost Tax Preparer idea.
Here’s the truth: Your finance is a very sensitive matter that you must pay careful attention to. That you are cool with Ghostwriters (provided you’ve got business with them) doesn’t mean you should be cool with some other ‘ghosts,’ especially Ghost Tax-preparers. Flee from them, they are scammers. You must ensure that anyone preparing your tax is licensed.
In conclusion, do not share sensitive information carelessly, also be diligent to make adequate findings of anyone helping you prepare your return.
Kenneth Omoruyi is the CEO of EnrolledAgent.com which is an online marketplace for tax professionals. Our goal is to create an environment where anyone can access licensed tax professionals with ease. We also seek to promote the Enrolled Agent brand and be a resource platform for all tax professionals.