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By Ashleigh, K-Staff
‘Tis the season! For taxes, that is. And, unfortunately, the tax scammers who come with them.
IRS scams are not new, and they’re also not isolated to the early spring. But there’s no doubt that these types of scams pick up the pace around this time of year. And after a year filled with record high unemployment claims, stimulus checks and more, 2020 is shaping up to be a complicated one for taxes.
This is an extraordinary year for fraud,” says Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center.
If you’re getting ready to file your 2020 taxes or waiting for a stimulus check from the IRA make sure you don’t fall prey to these common scams. Here are a few opening lines you may hear if you encounter an IRS scammer.
“We need a small payment to release your stimulus check!” Whether you get this message during a phone call, in a text, or in an e-mail, it’s never true. Stimulus checks will either automatically drop in your account (if the IRS has your information) or will be sent in the mail. Check on the status of the latest stimulus check here.
“We have issued a warrant for your arrest due to back taxes—unless you pay!” The IRS will never call you with a message like this. If you receive a letter from the IRS about your taxes, contact the agency yourself to verify. Don’t pay money or give personal information over the phone, via text, or online! If it’s an e-mail, just delete it.
“Click here to update your bank information.” The IRS does not e-mail, call, or text you to ask for banking information. You can hang up, delete the e-mail, or ignore the text. If there is an issue with your tax return, your tax preparer will alert you or you’ll be prompted to fix your return on your own.
“You must give us a gift card to fix fraud on your account.” Demanding payments, especially with a very specific method like purchasing a gift card, is a big red flag. In fact, requesting gift cards as payment is a key indicator of a scam, no matter what the subject of the scam is. The reason is because gift cards are not traceable or refundable. Once you’ve purchased it and sent the information to the scammer, there is no way to retrieve your money.
“There’s no need for us to sign your tax return.” If you’re paying a person or a service to complete your tax return form for you, that preparer is absolutely required to sign it and provide their preparer tax identification number (PTIN). A refusal to do so is indicative of a less-than-trustworthy tax preparer. Never sign your form if it’s blank. Considering the level of personal information that is turned over to tax preparers, you should be very careful about whom you choose to help you complete tax returns. If you do have problems with a tax preparer, you can file a complaint with the IRS by submitting Form 14157, a Return Preparer Complaint.
Have you ever encountered a tax scammer? Some fraud schemes are easy to spot, but others can take you by surprise. Rely only on reputable tax preparation services, never share personal information when prompted (and especially when threatened) to do so. And remember: the IRS will never e-mail, call, or text you asking for payments with gift cards.