The IRS won’t call, text or PM you to ask for your personal or financial information. The IRS won’t deposit money in your bank account then demand you pay it back by wire transfer or gift card. The IRS won’t threaten you with suspension of your business license, arrest or deportation.
All these tactics, according to the latest tax scam alert from the IRS, are part of a criminal scheme claiming victims this tax season.
“After stealing client data from tax professionals and filing fraudulent tax returns, these criminals use the taxpayers’ real bank accounts for the deposit,” the IRS alert says. “Thieves are then using various tactics to reclaim the refund from the taxpayers, and their versions of the scam may continue to evolve.”
In one version of the scam, criminals pose as debt collection agency officials acting on behalf of the IRS. They’ll tell the victim their refund was deposited in error and demand that they forward the money to the phony collection agency.
In another version of the scam, the taxpayer who received the erroneous refund gets an automated call with a recorded voice pretending to be from the IRS and threatening criminal charges, an arrest warrant or “blacklisting” the taxpayer’s social security number. The recorded voice gives a case number and a telephone number to call back. Caller IDs are often altered so the call appears to be coming from the IRS, further confusing victims.
The scammers are able to file fraudulent returns using stolen personal information, sometimes by breaching tax professionals’ systems and records. Business owners, human resources and payroll departments are also targeted in identity theft efforts.
In February, the IRS discovered more tax practitioners’ computer files had been breached. “The number of potential taxpayer victims jumped from a few hundred to several thousand in just days,” according to the IRS advisory.
“Knowledge is the first line in defense in protecting yourself from being a victim,” said Gina Sacripanti, VP of marketing and public relations for the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado. “Many consumers turn to BBB for information on whether a company is trustworthy or not. If you know of a victim or have been scammed yourself, report it on BBB Scam Tracker. You will help us bring this information to the community and law enforcement agencies, as well as help protect your fellow business owners.”
“As we know, identity theft is primarily a crime of access,” she said. “Our goal at BBB is to make information less accessible and empower people to protect themselves, both online and offline.”
Tax season is prime time for scammers, and Sacripanti said business owners should be vigilant.
She offered tips for tax season and beyond:
- Be suspicious if a business, government agency, or organization asks you to click on a link that then asks for your username or password or other personal data. Instead, type the organization’s web address directly into your browser or call them. The link in the email may look right, but if you click it you may go to a copycat website run by a scammer.
- Be cautious of attachments. Scammers pretend to be friends or family members, sending messages with malware from a spoofed account.
- Set your security software to update automatically, and back up your files regularly to an external hard drive or cloud storage. Use security software you trust to protect your data.