As tax season draws irresistibly closer, the scam artists are polishing their latest techniques. This article should help you keep an eye out for these nasty individuals.
Tax Season - Time for Scams
In a particularly cheeky move, scam artists have started posing in on form or another as the IRS in an effort to get you to turn over social security numbers and such. Logically, this actually makes sense. Everyone is terrified by the IRS and dread be contacted by the Agency. Most of us would do anything to resolve any issue raised by an IRS Agent including sending them copies of credit card statements and providing crucial financial information over the phone. Put another way, this is the perfect scenario for a scam artists.
The goal of scam artists, of course, is to get private information they can use to open credit card accounts and so on. This is loosely known as phishing for the purpose of identity theft.
Phishing and identify theft can occur through practically any communication method. Here are some recent scams that were successful:
1. One group of scam artists started sending spam emails notifying taxpayers they were eligible for tax refunds. The scam worked because the emails were sent from IRS types of email accounts including the irs letters in the address. Taxpayers were then told to go to click through to a site where they could fill out a form and get their refund. Of course, the email address and web site were fakes. Nobody got a refund, but the scam artists received a bevy of social security numbers, credit card information and so on. In total, this scam occurred through 12 different web sites in 11 countries.
2. This one is a classic. Scam artists send bogus IRS letters and Form W-8BEN asking non-residents to provide personal information including bank account numbers, PINs, passport numbers and so on. Form W-8BEN is used by banks, not the IRS, to obtain information from non-residents who are opening bank accounts! Unfortunately, many non-residents fell for this scam and had their identities stolen.
There are a couple of guidelines you can use when dealing with IRS communications. First, the IRS never, ever sends email to taxpayers. NEVER! If you get an email communication, it is absolutely a scam. Delete it or send it to the IRS so they can take action.
If you receive mail communications from the IRS, call the agency to verify a letter was really sent to you. With phone call communications, get the persons name and call them back at the IRS. Both methods will stop scam artists in their tracks. Be skeptical of communications you receive from sources you are not expecting.
Finally, the IRS never asks a taxpayer for passwords or PIN numbers. If the agency desires to seize your bank account, they can just do it. They don't need to take out $300 a day until your tax debt is collected!
Scam artists are highly creative people. If you have doubts about an communication of the IRS, pick up the phone and call the agency.