Tax Insights

Your Guide to State, Local, Federal, Estate + International Taxation

Avoid getting hooked by phishing scams

identity theft, fraud, scam, tax, refund, IRS, personal informationIn IRS Tax Tip 2019-170, the IRS laid out the tactics of phishing scammers and how to look out for them. Phishing scams are intended to trick users by disguising an email or website to look legitimate, convincing the users to provide personal information or click on unsolicited links. These emails can come to work or personal email accounts, and can even pretend to be someone from within your work organization or someone you are familiar with.

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Scamming tactics that are frequently used include:

  • Posing as a government agency, a tax professional, a bank or your favorite restaurant or store
  • Telling the victim that they are in violation of a law or that something is wrong with their account
  • Telling the victim to open a link or download an attachment
  • Sending the victim to a website that looks familiar (but is different) than the legitimate website and asking them to log in

Taxpayers can fall victim to this when scammers attempt to steal their account information or download malicious software onto your computer, smartphone or tablet. They also may try to trick taxpayers into sending money to them.

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This tax season, remember that the IRS will NEVER:

  • Demand immediate payment using a specific payment method (i.e. prepaid debit card, iTunes gift card, wire transfer)
  • Ask a taxpayer to make a payment to any person or organization other than the U.S. Treasury
  • Demand payment for taxes without first giving the taxpayer an opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed
  • Threaten to immediately arrest the recipient or call in police for not paying

If you are unsure about the status of your taxes, you can register at IRS.gov and check your account balance for the current tax year or any previous years with a balance due. If you receive a suspicious IRS or tax related email, forward it to phishing@irs.gov. Letters and phone calls can also be reported to phishing@irs.gov and to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

Still unsure? Just contact your Henry+Horne tax professional and they can get to the bottom of it for you.

Haley Braun