The 2019 tax season is upon us, and with it comes an increase in identity theft resulting from tax scams.
In a typical tax scam, the fraudster reaches out to the victim disguised as an employee of the IRS or State, stating they want to help with tax filing or requesting payment on owed taxes. Tax scam emails typically include the tax service’s name and official seal, and may even link to a phony website to appear more official.
Don’t let you or your members fall victim to these crimes!
Education for Members
Your members should know to be cautious of any communications – tax related or otherwise – requesting their personal or financial information, no matter how “official” the communication may seem.
Since tax scams are a particular threat this time of year, it is especially important your members know how to protect themselves from these prevalent attacks.
Members should know that the IRS and state tax authorities would never reach out by phone, email, text, or through social media to ask for personal or financial information. They would also never do the following:
- Require that taxes be paid with a prepaid/reloadable debit card, gift card, or money wires through services like Western Union or MoneyGram.
- Call you and demand immediate payment. The IRS or State will not call to discuss taxes you owe without first mailing you an official bill.
- Email about a tax discrepancy or bill with a threat to audit if the payment is not made right away.
The following are practices your members should follow to avoid a tax scam:
- Don’t reply to any emails regarding your federal or state tax returns/bills
- Don’t provide any personal or financial information
- Forward scam emails to firstname.lastname@example.org and then delete the email
- Don’t open any attachments or click on any links, as they may contain a malicious code or virus that will infect your compute
- If contacted by what appears to be an official tax authority asking for payment or financial information, hang up/delete the message immediately and contact the authority directly
- If a scam is suspected, report it to your State authorities and/or the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint
- Sign up for free scam alert emails from the FTC at to get the latest tips and advice about scams: ftc.gov/scams
Education for Businesses & Employees
It is just as important to train staff on the above tax scam warning signs and prevention methods, so they are equipped to detect and report an attack, especially if they handle employees’ private information and forms (i.e. Payroll and HR).
W-2 forms contain a lot of sensitive information on employees, and are therefore highly sought after by identity thieves for filing fake tax returns. In fact, tax scams involving stolen W-2s have become one of the more dangerous email scams for tax administrations.
Employees should contact the IRS if they experience any of the following tax scam warning signs:
- Extensions to file requests are rejected because a return with that Employer Identification Number or Social Security Number is already on file.
- An e-filed return is rejected because a duplicate EIN/SSN is already on file with the IRS.
- An unexpected receipt of a tax transcript or IRS notice that doesn’t correspond to anything submitted by the filer.
- Failure to receive expected and routine correspondence from the IRS because the thief has changed the address.
These tax scams are sure to increase in the coming months, so don’t wait to start educating your staff and members about these crimes!
Visit the IRS’s website to learn more about these tax scams: www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-scams-consumer-alerts.
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