Tax season is on, so are the scammers trying to steal the hard-earned money of hard-working Americans. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) recently issued a statement confirming that it is the busiest time of the year not only for the IRS but also for bad actors trying to scam their way into people’s tax refunds from the IRS. The deadline for tax filing is approximately one month away, and millions of Americans are filing tax returns and hope to enjoy the refund.
During tax season, many Americans wait on hefty refunds from the government. Very often, the money is used for purchasing a new car, booking the dreamed summer vacation, home-remodeling, etc. Whatever the purpose, getting a lump sum of cash is always welcome. According to a survey done by NerdWallet, more than 2 out of 5 people said they prefer to overpay their taxes and get a refund. When we scale up the numbers to a national level, this would mean that the IRS is currently issuing refunds to staggering 80 million people.
According to the BBB, the earlier you file your taxes, the lesser are the chances of someone stealing your identity and claiming your tax returns. Unfortunately, a high percentage of everyone filing leave it for the last moment on April 15th, and these are precisely the people scammers are generally targeting. With the major leaks we’ve observed over the previous years, if you are not careful, scammers can quickly complete the puzzle of your identity and get a hold of your cash.
What are the top tax scams going on at the moment?
- Phone scams
The number of robocalls have been increasing over the years and is currently acknowledged as a significant problem by all US wireless carriers. The calls have become completely unavoidable and have been flooding phone networks with fraudulent and spam calls. The best way to avoid getting scammed is to ignore the calls if they come from an unrecognized number. If you end up talking with someone claiming to be from the IRS, hang up and dial IRS back on 1-800-829-1040 to verify it. If legit, they should be able to reference the conversation. When you initiate the call you know that you are speaking with the right agency but not a scammer.
- Email scams
IRS has been warning taxpayers for years that criminals develop impersonation scam campaigns that spread nationally in the form of emails. Americans need to know that the IRS does not send unsolicited emails and never emails taxpayers about the status of refunds. So if you get an email asking you to fill in a form requesting your name, social security number, and an address, you most likely are giving away your sensitive information to a hacker who would then use the same information to go to the real website and try to claim your tax refunds or commit other types of identity thefts. If you want to report scam emails, you can forward the suspected fraudulent emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Fake tax preparers
Scammers offer free tax-filing services that would trick you into sharing all your tax information info, but the tax refund money won’t go to you, but a hacker probably based on the other side of the world. It is recommended for people always to use trusted and paid tax preparers if they want to make sure personal data is handled correctly, and your tax refund will reach you rather than a scammer. If you do not wish or cannot afford to work with a tax preparer, BBB says that there are options to get your taxes done free of charge – those come in the form of free government programs and Americans can go to the IRS’s Free File and see if they meet all the requirements needed to take advantage of those programs.
Cybercriminals have tens of millions of potential targets right here in the US. Those scammers are money-driven individuals ready to try any way possible to get all the info they need to impersonate you and get to your tax returns first. Keeping in mind that there are tens of millions of Americans currently racing to get money back from the government, the hackers have a big pool of potential victims to choose from. Having a reliable antivirus software prevents you from opening scam emails, but also makes sure that you are notified that you’ve been targeted. Getting the right type of software on your device is what would separate you and your family from becoming a target worth aiming at. One thing is for sure, hackers hate tough targets!