Everyone’s favorite time of the year is coming up soon, so to protect yourself from scammers and identity thieves, here are a few quick tips to remember:
- The IRS is never going to initiate contact via email. Ever. Even if you filed your taxes online. If there is a problem with your filing, they will contact you via telephone or postal mail.
- If the IRS does contact you, they are never going to ask you to “verify” personal information such as your Social Security number, account information, credit card numbers or anything else. They’re the IRS; they already know what they need to know about you.
- If you do get a phone call, don’t automatically trust what pops up on caller ID, since this information can be easily spoofed. If they’re asking to verify personal information, it’s probably someone trying to steal your identity.
- On a similar note, beware of phone calls at strange times. The IRS isn’t going to call at 1 AM or 11 PM.
- If you’re paying someone to prepare your tax return for you, make sure you’re dealing with someone you trust and who knows what they’re doing. It doesn’t matter who prepares your taxes, you are ultimately responsible for what gets filed.
- Also beware of tax preparers who make wild claims about how big of a tax return they can obtain for you.
- Finally, a lot of large, nationwide tax preparation companies advertise a “service” in which they write you a check before your taxes are even prepared or filed, based on an estimate of what you will receive. While this is not a “scam,” know that these advances are loans, which you will have to pay back with interest. If they give you more than you get back from the IRS, the excess will come out of your pocket.
Like I’ve said before, just about anything can be turned into a scam. The best defense is to be prepared by knowing what to watch out for.
Lastly, If you do get a suspicious email, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t open any attachments, and don’t click on any links contained in the message. These could infect your computer with spyware or other malicious software.