That Wasn’t The IRS Calling: Spotting and Avoiding Tax Scams
It’s that time of year again – tax season. Along with everything else, tax season will bring with it an increase in attempted tax scams. It seems like these scams get more prolific and convincing each year. Read on to learn about common scams, signs that you might be talking to a scammer, and how to avoid becoming a victim of a tax scam in 2022.
Spotting a Scam
- Did the IRS contact you by phone? Although in very rare circumstances the IRS might call you, this almost always follows multiple letters or notices sent to you by mail. And the IRS will never send you a text or email, or message you on social media. If this happens, you can guarantee that it is a scam.
- Pre recorded voicemails. Many scammers will leave a prerecorded message on your voicemail claiming to be the IRS – the IRS does not leave prerecorded voicemail messages.
- The IRS will not ask you for a credit card or debit card number over the phone. If someone asks you for this information on the phone, do not give it to them. The IRS will send you a paper bill if you owe money, and you can check to see what money you may owe here.
- If the person you’re talking to asks you to pay your bill to the IRS in gift cards, prepaid Visa cards, or anything other than a check, it is not legitimate. If you owe the IRS, you should pay them directly by check.
- The IRS will never threaten you with arrest, seizure of your business or driver’s license, or deportation.
Common Tax Scams
- “Federal student tax” – if you’re told you owe this tax, it is a scam. There’s no such thing as a federal student tax.
- FBI survey form. Scammers email a link to an FBI or IRS survey, and if you click the link you’ll unwittingly download ransomware to your device, forcing you to pay to access your own data.
- An email from the IRS with your tax transcript or the status of your tax refund. The IRS will not email you with this information.
- Fake tax preparers. Your tax preparer should have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number, and must sign your tax return with their name.
- A phone call from the Taxpayer Advocate Service. This service is real, but they won’t call you out of nowhere. This scam solicits your personal information by pretending to represent this organization.
- Form W-8BEN. This is a real IRS form, but scammers have modified a version of it in order to steal personal information from you. The real form is here – don’t fill one out if it doesn’t match this form.
- An email from the IRS saying that they’ve recalculated your refund. This email will ask you to fill out a form with personal information in order to update this refund. Again, the IRS will not contact you by email for this kind of information.
- A voicemail that threatens to arrest you or cancel/suspend your Social Security Number if you do not return the call. The IRS does not have the authority to do either of these things, and will not leave you prerecorded voicemails.
- A message asking you to pay a fee before receiving your stimulus check. You will not need to pay anything to receive your government stimulus payment.
- A message from the Bureau of Tax Enforcement claiming that they are putting a lien or levy on your assets. This bureau does not exist.
- A fake IRS agent contacting you to tell you that your identity was stolen, and you need to buy gift cards to fix the problem. The agent will later contact you to get the access codes for the gift cards.
It can feel impossibly daunting to keep track of all of the IRS scams going around at this time of year. Criminals are constantly updating and shifting the details of their scams in order to continue to take advantage of people. Remember the guidelines for spotting a scam, and when in doubt – do not give out your personal information. Do your own research or check with a tax preparer you trust. You can always check on your status at the IRS’s website. Stay safe and protect your information this tax season.