If you filed for an extension on your taxes, you’re probably finalizing all your information for the October 15 deadline. But those last-minute details aren’t the only thing you need to be concerned with. The IRS is warning taxpayers that criminals are still after your personal information and money. Scams are on the upswing right now because of the October tax deadline and hurricane season. Here’s how you can protect yourself.
The most common phone scam involves criminals pretending to be IRS employees and calling victims to demand immediate payment for a “tax debt.” Scammers can even spoof the phone number they’re calling from to make it look like a real IRS number. Victims are often threatened with lawsuits or police involvement to scare them into paying their alleged debt in the form of prepaid debit cards, money wires or even gift cards.
If you get a call like this, hang up. The IRS does not call to threaten or demand immediate payment for a tax liability. Unsure if you owe? You can view your account information by registering on the IRS website. To report a IRS/tax phone scam, go to www.tigta.gov.
If you receive an email from the IRS, think before you click. It could be a phishing attempt. These fake emails usually contain the IRS logo, agency language and may ask you to provide sensitive information, open an attachment or click on a link that installs malware on your computer. There’s an even more targeted version of this scam called “spear phishing,” where the scammers research you ahead of time.
Don’t click on or respond to suspicious emails. The IRS does not contact taxpayers via email or social media. Forward the email as-is to firstname.lastname@example.org to report the scam. Be sure to delete the original email.
Fake charity donation requests
Natural disasters, like the recent destruction caused by Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas, are a prime-time when scammers try to strike. They set up fake charities to trick taxpayers with good intentions into making donations. They may contact you by phone, email or even in person.
Be wary of organizations with names that are similar to nationally-known charities. You can find out if a charity is legit by using this IRS tool. If you donate, do it by check or another way that provides documentation of the gift. To report suspected tax fraud activity, complete Form 3489-A, Information Referral.