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Common IRS Scams Escalate During Tax Season

The 2020 federal income tax filing due date for individuals has been extended from April 15 to May 17, 2021. It’s a good time to remind taxpayers to be vigilant of common IRS impersonation scams frequently targeting the elderly, students, and immigrants that escalate during tax season. 

In IRS agent phone scams, fraudsters provide false names and IDs and spoof Caller ID so their calls appear to come from the IRS. Victims are threatened that they owe the IRS money and must pay up immediately.

Sometimes a fake agent tells the victim she owes delinquent taxes and demands immediate payment by prepaid debit or gift card or wire transfer. The “agent” threatens that nonpayment will result in arrest, deportation, fines, license suspension, etc.

In another variation, the scammer tells the victim he can obtain a tax refund for her and requests banking and other personal information. He then uses this info to commit identity theft, or files for an actual refund but routes it to a fraudulent account. 

A scam targeting students involves an impersonator demanding payment for a fake “Federal Student Tax.” If the victim does not agree to pay, the impersonator threatens to notify police.

Recently the IRS warned about a scam targeting “.edu” emails, generally held by staff or students at colleges and universities. Scam emails display the IRS logo and subject lines like “Tax Refund Payment” and “Recalculation of your tax refund payment” and request recipients to click a link and submit a form containing sensitive information.

Other scams involving fake emails and regarding refunds, returns or tax accounts contain a “temporary password” or “one-time password” to “access” relevant files. These files, however, are malicious; when a taxpayer accesses them, their computer is infected with malware. The imposter gains control of the computer or secretly downloads keylogger software that tracks keystrokes and passwords to sensitive financial accounts.

If you get a call from someone asking for money and/or personal info and claiming to be from the IRS or the Treasury, don’t give out any information; hang up immediately. Report the call to the Treasury Inspector General through https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml or by calling 800-366-4484. Report the scam to the FTC through FTC.gov by filing a consumer complaint. If you think you might owe tax or need tax assistance, call the IRS at 800-829-1040.

In the event you receive a phishing email, don’t reply or provide any information. Forward it to phishing@irs.gov and then delete it. Don’t open attachments or click on links.

If you think an identity thief may have your sensitive info, look into the IRS’s Identity Protection PIN program described at irs.gov/identity-theft-fraud-scams/get-an-identity-protection-pin. The IP PIN prevents fraudsters from filing a tax return using your Social Security number.

Impersonation schemes of all types continue to top the IRS’s Dirty Dozen annual list of scams. Stay alert; scams can occur any time of year, not just at tax time.

The information contained in this column is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.

 By Gille Ann Rabbin, Esq., CIPP/US, CIPP/E

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