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Reduce Your Risk of Tax Fraud

Tax season is not only a busy time for accountants, but for tax scammers too. From phone and e-mail phishing schemes to identity theft, fraudsters use a variety of tactics to take advantage of the increased financial activity of tax season.

Examples of current tax scams
PHONE/EMAIL/TEXT SCAMS: You receive a message from a fake IRS agent demanding immediate payment using a pre-paid debit card, or payment service such as Western Union or wire transfer. Or, you receive a message requesting verification of sensitive information such as your Social Security Number, PIN, financial account information, etc.

SUSPICIOUS PEOPLE: Be suspicious of any tax preparer who promises refunds larger than you ever imagined, especially if you don’t have to file a return. These scammers may charge you for bad advice or file a false return in your name.

BOGUS LINKS IN E-MAILS: Clicking on links in an e-mail may lead to websites that contain malware or viruses designed to access your files or collect sensitive information by tracking your keystrokes. Instead of clicking on links in a suspicious email, delete it immediately.

Important things to know
The IRS will NEVER do the following:

  • Contact you by phone, e-mail, text or social media to demand payment via a specific payment. Usually, the IRS attempts to contact you by mail for taxes owed.
  • Demand payment without giving you a chance to appeal, or threaten to have you arrested or deported, or to suspend your license.
  • E-mail you to confirm tax data. You may receive an e-mail designed to appear official (asking about tax-related topics such as refund or filing status), then requests to confirm personal information, or set up a PIN. Clicking on links within the e-mail will route you to a fake IRS site, where you’ll be asked to verify e-file information or enter your Social Security Number. Never give someone claiming to be an IRS agent personal information (such as your Social Security, credit or debit card numbers) via e-mail or over the phone. Remember—the IRS won’t initiate contact with you via e-mail or phone call to request personal information.
  • Also, as a reminder, Tower will never contact you requesting your account information, Social Security Number, PIN or other personal information. If you receive a suspicious phone call, e-mail or text, hang up or delete.

Tax fraud is preventable
 You can reduce your risk of fraud by taking the following steps:

  • Use secure internet connections and install security software, including firewall and antivirus protections. Do not use public Wi-Fi or hotspots to access your accounts or e-file your taxes.
  • Use strong passwords for e-filing that use a variety of random characters, and update them every few months.
  • Protect your personal data by keeping tax files and your Social Security card in a secure place.

Tips to avoid phone scams
Don’t trust threatening callers, and don’t respond to illegal robocalls in any way.

  • Avoid making payments over the phone and don’t get pressured into using payment services such as Western Union.
  • Don’t trust Caller ID, because scammers may “spoof” a phone number making the number on your Caller ID appear to be from the IRS even when it’s not.
  • Check into call-blocking options with your phone service provider.
  • If you suspect that a caller is an IRS agent impersonator, hang up. Report instances to the IRS.

What to do
If you suspect you’ve been a victim of a tax scam:

  1. Contact Tower’s Member Service Center at 301-497-7000 or 866-56-TOWER.
  2. Report tax scams or fraud at irs.gov.
  3. Report any monetary losses due to an IRS-related incident to the Treasury Inspector General Administration (TIGTA).

Resources: Internal Revenue Service, Federal Communications Commission, U.S. Department of the Treasury, Forbes Media LLC, CBS News.