The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a fresh warning to both tax preparers and taxpayers about emerging scams that attempt to obtain individuals’ sensitive information.
While the IRS often sends out notices that people should be on their guard about tax-related scams, identity thieves are using recent news events as part of their efforts to scam people.
“Identity thieves are relentless and use a variety of techniques ... We urge people to be careful with their personal information and be wary of email and text scams,” IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said in a recent statement.
“With people anxious to receive the latest information about a refund or other issues during tax season, scammers will regularly pose as the IRS, a state tax agency or others in the tax industry. People should be incredibly wary about unexpected messages that can be an elaborate trap by scam artists, especially during filing season.”
As with previous warnings, the IRS said that “phishing” email scams are still be deployed, claiming to come from the IRS, a state tax organization, or a financial company. Text message-based scams, or “smishing,” have been used by scammers, the IRS said, adding that such messages may allege that a taxpayer’s account was placed on hold or say that unusual activity has been reported.
“The email lures the victims into the scam by a variety of ruses such as enticing victims with a phony tax refund or frightening them with false legal/criminal charges for tax fraud,” said the IRS.
Taxpayers “should never respond to tax-related phishing or smishing or click on the URL link,” the IRS said in a news release. “Instead, the scams should be reported by sending the email or a copy of the text/SMS as an attachment to [email protected].”
The IRS again said that it initiates most contacts with a person via regular mail, not email or other means, about tax refunds or a bill.
“The IRS also warned ”taxpayers to be wary of messages that appear to be from friends or family but are possibly stolen or compromised email or text accounts from someone they know, according to the release. “This remains a popular way to target individuals and tax preparers for a variety of scams. Individuals should verify the identity of the sender by using another communication method; for instance, calling a number they independently know to be accurate, not the number provided in the email or text.”
Several weeks ago, the IRS sent out an alert to taxpayers to be alert for criminals soliciting donations and falsely posing as legitimate charities in connection to natural disasters and conflicts, including the Israel-Hamas conflict.
The IRS said in October that scammers often use fake charities to exploit people during times of disasters or crises. But “when fake charities scam unsuspecting donors, the proceeds don’t go to those who need the help and those contributing to these fake charities can’t deduct their donations on their tax return,” the IRS said.
Americans were advised not to give not needed personal information to charities and never to work with organizations that ask for gift cards or via wiring money. “It’s safest to pay by credit card or check—and only after verifying the charity is real,” the agency said at the time.
“We all want to help innocent victims and their families,” the IRS commissioner said. “Knowing we’re trying to aid those who are suffering, criminals crawl out of the woodwork to prey on those most vulnerable—people who simply want to help. Especially during these challenging times, don’t feel pressured to immediately give to a charity you’ve never heard of. Check out the charity first and confirm it is authentic.”