Tag Archives: Tax Fraud

Be Smart About Security at Tax Time

Although the IRS reports a 400 percent surge in phishing and malware incidents during the 2016 tax season, there are simple steps you can take to help protect yourself.

Here are nine hints that can help:

  1. Beware of IRS Impersonators. Some crooks call taxpayers to say they must settle their “tax bill.” These are fake calls and often demand payment on prepaid debit cards, gift cards or wire transfers. Also, students should know there’s no “Federal Student Tax.” If you get any unexpected calls, e-mails, letters or texts from someone claiming to be from the IRS, remember, the IRS never calls to demand immediate payment using a specific method nor will it threaten you with local law enforcement.
  2. Understand and Use Security Software. Security software helps protect computers against digital threats online. Generally, the operating system will include security software or you can access free security software from well-known companies or Internet providers. Essential tools include a firewall, virus and malware protection, and file encryption. Don’t buy security software offered as an unexpected pop-up ad on your computer or e-mail. It’s likely from a scammer.
  3. Let Security Software Update Automatically. Malware—malicious software—evolves constantly and your security software suite updates routinely to keep pace.
  4. Look for the “S.” When shopping or banking online, see that the site uses encryption to protect your information. Look for “https” at the beginning of the Web address. The “s” is for secure. Additionally, make sure the https carries through on all pages, not just the sign-on page.
  5. Use Strong Passwords. Use passwords of eight or more characters, mixing letters, numbers and special characters. Don’t use your name, birth date or common words. Don’t use the same password for several accounts. Keep your password list in a secure place or use a password manager. Don’t share passwords with anyone. Calls, texts or e-mails pretending to be from legitimate companies or the IRS asking to update accounts or seeking personal financial information are almost always scams.
  6. Secure Wireless Networks. A wireless network sends a signal through the air that lets it connect to the Internet. If your home or business Wi-Fi is unsecured, it also lets any computer within range access your wireless and potentially steal information from your computer. Criminals can also use your wireless to send spam or commit crimes that would be traced back to you. Always encrypt your wireless. Generally, you must turn on this feature and create a password.
  7. Be Cautious When Using Public Wireless Networks. Public Wi-Fi hot spots are convenient but often not secure. Tax or financial information you send though websites or mobile apps may be accessed by someone else. If a public Wi-Fi hot spot doesn’t require a password, it’s probably not secure.
  8. Avoid E-mail Phishing Attempts. Never reply to e-mails, texts or pop-up messages asking for personal, tax or financial information. One com-mon trick by criminals is to impersonate a business such as your financial institution, tax software provider or the IRS, asking you to update your account and providing a link. They ask for Social Security numbers and other personal information, which could be used to file false tax returns. The sites may also infect your computer. Never click on links even if they seem to be from organizations you trust. Go directly to the organization’s website. Legitimate businesses don’t ask you to send sensitive information through unsecured channels.
  9. Get Professional Advice. To make sure you can take advantage of all allowable tax-deferred savings, tax credits and deductions, consult with a licensed tax professional, your enrolled agent (EA). EAs are the only federally licensed tax professionals with unlimited rights of representation before the IRS. EAs abide by a code of ethics and must complete many hours of continuing education each year to ensure they are up-to-date on the constantly changing tax code.

You can save money and trouble if you follow professional advice and your own good sense when taking care of taxes.

Combating Tax Return Fraud – What You Need to Know

WASHINGTON, DC (January 12, 2016) How do you know if someone has filed a tax return using your Social Security number? And what do you do then?

This is happening more and more—the latest General Accounting Office (GAO) report says that IRS paid out over $5.8 billion in fraudulent returns in 2013. IRS does have security measures in place to verify the accuracy of tax returns and the validity of Social Security numbers submitted, but that hasn’t stopped the bad guys from filing returns using other people’s identities—early and often!

“Filing your return early is actually a great way to thwart these fraudsters,” said Kerry Freeman, EA, of Freeman Income Tax Services in Anthem, AZ. “By filing later, you give the bad guys more time to file a false return in your name.”

If you receive a notice from the IRS that leads you to believe someone may have used your Social Security number fraudulently, or if your electronic filing is rejected, Freeman advises that you notify the IRS immediately by calling the IRS’ Identity Protection Specialized Unit (IPSU) at 800.908.4490. For the IRS to mark your account to identify any questionable activity, you must complete Form 14039, Identify Theft Affidavit. Mail or fax the form (one or the other, doing both will result in a delay) to the address or fax number listed on the form

The IRS is well aware of the uptick in fraudulent filings and is making efforts to prevent it, such as monitoring Internet “IP” addresses where multiple returns are filed and keeping track of the time it takes to fill out each return online. Scammers prepare returns in rapid succession, unlike most taxpayers, who typically put in time to make sure the information on their return is correct.

Freeman also noted that the IRS is providing increased protection with a personal pin number for taxpayers, known as an “IP PIN”—an identity protection pin.

“An IP PIN is a six-digit number the IRS will assign you if you think you’ve been the victim of identity theft that helps prevent the misuse of your Social Security number on fraudulent federal income tax returns. IRS is not giving out IP Pins to everyone, but if you think you’ve been a victim of identity theft you’ll need one.”

Many people feel safer having a licensed professional, such as an enrolled agent, prepare their returns. Enrolled agents (also known as “EAs”) receive their licenses from the IRS and are required to undergo a background check. They abide by a code of ethics and earn annual continuing education. You can find an enrolled agent in good standing on the directory of the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA): eatax.org.

Tips to Protect Your Personal Information While Online

The IRS, the states and the tax industry urge you to be safe online and remind you to take important steps to help protect your tax and financial information and guard against identity theft. Treat your personal information like cash – don’t hand it out to just anyone.

Your Social Security number, credit card numbers, and bank and utility account numbers can be used to steal your money or open new accounts in your name. Every time you are asked for your personal information think about whether you can really trust the request. In an effort to steal your information, scammers will do everything they can to appear trustworthy.

The IRS has teamed up with state revenue departments and the tax industry to make sure you understand the dangers to your personal and financial data. Taxes. Security. Together. Working in partnership with you, we can make a difference.

Here are some best practices you can follow to protect your tax and financial information:

Give personal information over encrypted websites only. If you’re shopping or banking online, stick to sites that use encryption to protect your information as it travels from your computer to their server. To determine if a website is encrypted, look for “https” at the beginning of the web address (the “s” is for secure). Some websites use encryption only on the sign-in page, but if any part of your session isn’t encrypted, the entire account and your financial information could be vulnerable. Look for https on every page of the site you’re on, not just where you sign in.

Protect your passwords. The longer the password, the tougher it is to crack.  Use at least 10 characters; 12 is ideal for most home users. Mix letters, numbers and special characters. Try to be unpredictable – don’t use your name, birthdate or common words. Don’t use the same password for many accounts.  If it’s stolen from you – or from one of the companies with which you do business – it can be used to take over all your accounts. Don’t share passwords on the phone, in texts or by email.  Legitimate companies will not send you messages asking for your password.  If you get such a message, it’s probably a scam. Keep your passwords in a secure place, out of plain sight.

Don’t assume ads or emails are from reputable companies. Check out companies to find out if they are legitimate. When you’re online, a little research can save you a lot of money and reduce your security risk. If you see an ad or an offer that looks too good, take a moment to check out the company behind it. Type the company or product name into your favorite search engine with terms like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” If you find bad reviews, you’ll have to decide if the offer is worth the risk. If you can’t find contact information for the company, take your business and your financial information elsewhere. The fact that a site features an ad for another site doesn’t mean that it endorses the advertised site, or is even familiar with it.

Don’t overshare on social media – Do a web search of your name and review the results. Mostly likely, the results while turn up your past addresses, the names of people living in the household as well social media accounts and your photographs. All of these items are valuable to identity thieves. Even a social media post boasting of a new car can help thieves bypass security verification questions that depend on financial data that only you should know. Think before you post!

Back up your files. No system is completely secure. Copy important files and your federal and state tax returns onto a removable disc or a back-up drive, and store it in a safe place. If your computer is compromised, you’ll still have access to your files.

Save your tax returns and records. Your federal and state tax forms are important financial documents you may need for many reasons, ranging from home mortgages to college financial. Print out a copy and keep in a safe place. Make an electronic copy in a safe spot as well. These steps also can help you more easily prepare next year’s tax return. If you store sensitive tax and financial records on your computer, use a file encryption program to add an additional layer of security should your computer be compromised.

IRS Security Awareness Tax Tip Number 7, January 4, 2016

 

 

Fighting Tax Scam Phone Fraud

WASHINGTON, DC (October 21, 2015) The Internal Revenue Service has a warning for many Americans (and it’s not about paying your taxes). Instead, the agency has tips on how to protect yourself from telephone scam artists calling and pretending to be with the IRS. These callers may demand money or say you have a refund due and try to trick you into sharing private information. The con artists can sound convincing when they call. They may know a lot about you, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request. “We urge people not to be deceived by these threatening phone calls,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “We have formal processes in place for people with tax issues. The IRS respects taxpayer rights, and these angry shakedown calls are not how we do business.”

What to Watch For The IRS reminds people that they can know pretty easily when a supposed IRS caller is a fake. Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not: • Call to demand immediate payment or call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill. • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe. • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card. • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone. • Threaten to bring in the police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

What to Do If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here are things you can do: 1. If you know you owe taxes or think you might, call the IRS at (800) 829-1040. 2. If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at (800) 366-4484 or at www.tigta.gov. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission’s “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint. 3. Get help from a licensed tax professional. Enrolled agents (EAs) are America’s tax experts. They are the only federally licensed tax practitioners who specialize in taxation and also have unlimited rights to represent taxpayers before the IRS. If you are audited by the IRS, an EA can advocate on your behalf.

Avoid Summertime Tax Scams

Ah, summertime! Warm days, rest and recreation and…tax scams. Thieves don’t stop victimizing unsuspecting taxpayers with their scams after April 15. Identity theft, phone and phishing scams happen year-round. Those three top the IRS’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ list of tax scams this year. Here’s some important information you should know about these common tax scams:

  1. Identity Theft.  Identity thieves steal personal and financial information to commit fraud or other crimes. This can include your Social Security number or bank information. An identity thief may file a phony tax return to claim a fraudulent refund.

    The IRS has a special identity protection page on IRS.gov. It has many resources you can use to reduce your risk of becoming a victim. The page can also tell you what steps to take if you are a victim of identity theft and need help. This includes how and when you should contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit.

  2. Phone Scams.  In these scams, thieves pose as the IRS and call would-be victims with one goal in mind: to steal their money. Callers will tell you that you owe taxes and demand immediate payment. They will tell you that you must pay the bogus tax bill with a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. The callers are often abusive and threaten arrest or deportation. They may know the last four digits of your Social Security number. They also rig caller ID to falsely show that the call is from the IRS.

    Keep in mind that if a person owes taxes, the IRS will first contact them by mail, not by phone. The IRS doesn’t ask for payment with a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. If you owe, or think you might owe federal taxes and you get one of these calls, hang up. Call the IRS at 800-829-1040 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 800-829-1040 FREE  end_of_the_skype_highlighting. The IRS will work with you to pay what you owe. If you don’t owe taxes, call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 800-366-4484 FREE  end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

  3. Phishing Scams.  Criminals use the IRS as bait in a phishing scam. Scammers typically send emails that purport to come from the IRS. They often lure their targets with a false promise of a refund or the threat of an audit. They may also set up a phony website that looks like the real IRS.gov. These phony sites often have the IRS seal and other graphics to make them appear official. Their goal is to get their victim to reveal personal and financial information. They use the information they get to steal identities and commit fraud.

    The IRS doesn’t contact people by email about their tax account. Nor does the agency use email, social media, texting or fax to initiate contact or ask for personal or financial information. If you get an email like this, do not click on a link or open any attachments. You should instead forward it to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov. For more on this topic visit IRS.gov and select the ‘Reporting Phishing’ link at the bottom of the page.

Don’t let tax scams take the fun out of your summer. Be alert to phone and phishing email scams that use the IRS as a lure. Visit the genuine IRS website, IRS.gov, for more on what you can do to avoid  becoming a victim and how to report tax fraud

IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2014-04, July 11, 2014coming a victim and how to report tax fraud.