The bad guys just LOVE tax season.
This year, they've been busy coming up with lots of new ways to get their greedy hands on our hard-earned refunds.
The Federal Trade Commission has already identified several different trending tax-scam tactics in 2018:
- Identity thieves will file a false return and have the refund deposited "erroneously" into YOUR bank account, but then call you, posing as the IRS, demanding that you return the money...then they provide you with an account and routing number that sends it to them, not the IRS.
- Fraudsters have created fake tax preparation websites to capture your personal information and use it later to commit identity theft.
- Bad guys will send phishing emails that look like they're from the IRS, the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (a legitimate volunteer board that assists the IRS), or a tax professional asking you to click links and enter information about your tax return.
- And then there's the classic scam that's (sadly) still around: Scammers file a fake tax return in your name and have your refund deposited in their account.
Even though the fraudsters are developing more innovative and sophisticated tactics to scam us out of our refunds, the IRS, FTC and other sources are coming up with excellent tips on how NOT to fall victim.
But first, here's what you need to know about the IRS
Before we begin listing some best practices to avoid being scammed, it's important that we all understand that the legitimate Internal Revenue Service promises to NEVER:
- Call you to demand immediate payment over the phone
- Threaten you with arrest for non-payment
- Demand payment without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount you supposedly owe
- Ask for financial information like credit or debit card numbers by phone
- Require you to use a particular method to pay your taxes--especially not questionable methods like prepaid debit cards, gift cards or wire transfer
Knowing what you should NOT be expecting is half the battle of foiling fraudsters.
And here's what you SHOULD do
If you are unexpectedly contacted by someone about your tax return, you definitely don't want to engage with them. Instead:
- Just hang up
- Don't call back if they've left a message
- Do not give out any information
- Call the IRS at (800) 829-1040 to question the call/request
If you should receive an unexpected deposit into your bank account or a check in the mail that is marked as being from the IRS or is otherwise tax-related, please don't spend the money! This alert from the IRS details specific instructions on what to do with erroneous direct deposits, paper checks and even checks you've cashed in error.
We're here to help you, too! If you have questions about any transaction appearing in your account, please don't hesitate to give us a call at (877) 865-5050 or (256) 386-5000 Monday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.