The start of the year also means the start of tax season. While most of us aren't happy when we owe money, it's even worse when we're scammed out of money due to fraud. As consumers become more aware of the tactics used by scammers, the methods they will use have begun to shift.
The standard IRS scam usually involves a text message or email that seems to be from a legitimate source advising you that you have a tax debt or fines owed. This year, the new twist that is grabbing attention is suggesting you are qualified for a "tax rebate" from a refund or another benefit. While they may not be asking for payment for a fine, this scam is intended to get personal or financial information from you.
The request will often be for information that could be used to access additional personal or financial accounts belonging to you. Scammers will ask you to verify your identity using a maiden name or to confirm a prior address. They might ask for banking details in order to send your refund or ask you to log into your online banking. Trying to get you to provide information that correlates to one of your security questons is another tactic they can use. Once that information has been provided, they can attempt to access any accounts that might be associated with that information.
Here are the things to help prevent IRS scams, and other similar ones, from happening to you.
- Be aware that the IRS will never initiate any contact with you via email, text, or social media messaging to gain personal or financial data from you. If you are receiving any communication from the IRS asking for that information, know that it is a scam. The IRS will never communiacte via WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, SnapChat, or any other messaging apps.
- Never click on links in text messages. These shortended URLs often lead to malicious sites that take your information or place harmful trackers on your browser or computer.
- Verify information via direct links or phone numbers. Regardless of the source, if personal or financial information is being requested - always do your own verification. If the message is from Microsoft, from the IRS, from your local police department - always verify the information through a method outside of the way you were contacted.
- Internet searches are also the fastest way to confirm if something is a scam. If you receive a text message from a number claiming to be the IRS - do a reverse number look-up and see if others have received the same message. Visit the government site for the IRS and utilize their "Telephone Assistance" directory to find the department that is seeking you out. You can also find direct information on Fraud and Scams along with ways to report Phishing attempts.
- Grammar and spelling. It might seem simple, but if you read the message out loud, word for word, does it sound correct? Are there other typos or spelling errors? Missing punctuation? These are also hints of a possible scam attempt.
As education on scams and how they operate continues to be spread, scammers will simply modify their tactics and try harder. Keep yourself aware of the ways to verify information and how to spot a scam and you will be in a much safer place for your financial future.