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Protect Yourself From Scammers This Tax Return Season

Over the past few years, there has been an increase in scammers posing as the IRS to try to get sensitive information from taxpayers. The IRS has seen a 400 percent increase in phishing scams (posing as a legitimate organization or company to steal financial information from users), which are conducted by email and phone. The agency is doing its best to prevent these schemes and to provide taxpayers with information so that they can reduce their risk of falling victim to these fraudulent scams. That is why they are alerting taxpayers about the latest round of schemes making their way around the country.

2015 Public Awareness Campaign

Last year, the IRS and tax industry came together to run a public awareness campaign. As part of this campaign, the IRS addressed phishing scams where people pretending to be the IRS would call taxpayers and threaten them. The IRS assured the public that agents never called or emailed, and they would never use aggressive tactics or resort to threats. This provided some help to taxpayers, and it may be the reason that scammers have decided to change tactics this year.

Posing as an IRS Agent to Verify Information

Rather than calling and threatening taxpayers, scammers this year have started calling taxpayers and asking them to provide some verification to their information, such as bank accounts, credit cards, and social security numbers. The scam artists pretend to be an agent of the IRS just needing to verify the information to process the tax return. This type of scam and other phishing schemes occur everywhere, and the criminals may target anyone, no matter his or situation. To make it more difficult for taxpayers to identify the scam, the criminals will often use fake caller ID numbers that appear to be the IRS, will have fake badges, and take other actions to make them appear official.

How to Know if it is the IRS

It is important to know that the IRS will never call you to verify your tax information, just as they will not call and threaten you with collective action unless you pay your tax debt immediately. If the IRS requires additional information from you, they will send an official letter. It is to your benefit to always confirm with the IRS when you receive any communication to ensure it is legitimate. When you contact the IRS, visit their website at IRS.gov and get the right number or email address, or look in your phone book for the number of the local IRS office.

You also will never need to send cash, a prepaid debit card, wire transfer, or other forms of immediate payment to the IRS. They have a safe and secure online payment system that you can use when it comes time to pay, and the IRS typically gives you 30 days to make the payment and a chance to appeal. You can also send the funds through the mail. To protect yourself, never provide personal data to someone claiming to be an IRS official over the phone.

Report Any Fraudulent Activity

The IRS receives thousands of reports every year about phishing schemes, and you can help them battle this fraudulent activity by reporting it. If you receive an email or phone call from someone pretending to the IRS, do not provide any information. Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and report it to the Federal Trade Commission.

Although he IRS will not make aggressive threats, such as saying they will bring in law enforcement, and they will not force you to make an immediate payment, you may face collective action if you do not take steps to pay any tax debt or back taxes. The IRS does have programs in place to help you settle your debt. If you feel overwhelmed by your situation, contact Fidelity Tax Relief. Our tax professionals will review your current situation and determine the best action to take. Download our free guide on the top tax relief settlement options for more information.

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