With robocalls more prevalent than ever, it is easy to fall victim to a tax scam. Thieves are no longer out on the street but can attack you through your phone and computer. In 2018, the Federal Trade Commission reported that more than 488 million dollars were stolen in imposter scams, which increase sharply around tax filing time. Optima Tax Relief reviews the top five tax scams that you should be aware of in order to keep your information, data, and money safe.
1. Voicemail Fishing (Vishing)
Due to rampant sales calls, most cellphone users don’t answer a number they don’t recognize. Typically, scam callers will leave intimidating voicemails claiming to be from the IRS and threatening jail time if you do not return their call. When these scammers manage to get a person to speak with them, they will demand payment and request sensitive and personal information. The IRS has repeatedly stressed that they will never contact taxpayers via phone, e-mail, or text message. Official correspondence will be conducted via U.S. mail. You will never be asked to pay your taxes over the phone or by wire.
2. Fraudulent “Tax Software”
Beware of online pop-ups that advertise free tax software. The website will deceivingly look like well-known tax software such as TurboTax as a clever way to steal your information. Other scam websites will claim to provide popular tax software at a largely discounted rate in order to get access to a person’s credit card information. You can protect yourself from these websites by doing your research on which tax software sites are safe and legitimate to use.
3. Unqualified Tax Preparers
During tax season, you may notice a hoard of tax preparers setting up temporary shop in public areas. They may approach you, offering advice and volunteering to assist you with your taxes. Be wary of strangers that are not backed by a reputable company; while they may mean well, it is not worth the risk and they could be scammers in disguise.
4. Your “Employer”
Be aware of fraudulent calls that claim to be your employer’s human resources department. The caller will state they are calling to verify personal information for your W-2 to try and quickly make off with your personal data. Most employers will never request your information over the phone, and typically have you fill out any sensitive information in person.
5. Wi-Fi Warning
When filing your taxes electronically, ensure that you are on a secure Wi-Fi connection you can trust. Never transmit tax information on a public connection, like at a coffee shop. Do not fill out your tax information on public computers as it will put you at higher risk of having your data stolen
To avoid being scammed, do not provide any personal information over the phone or internet. Instead, talk to a qualified tax professional to answer your tax questions and file your return.