There’s never an off-season when it comes to scammers and thieves who want to trick people into scamming them out of money, stealing their personal information, or talking them into engaging in questionable behavior with their taxes. While scam attempts typically peak during tax season, taxpayers need to remain vigilant all year long. As such, it is once again time to remind taxpayers that while gift cards make great presents for loved ones, they cannot be used to pay taxes.
Criminals and fraudsters often see disasters as an opportunity to take advantage of victims when they are the most vulnerable, as well as the generous taxpayers who want to help with relief efforts. Generally, these disaster scams start with unsolicited contact – typically a phone call, on social media, by email, or even in person. Reviewing the tips listed below will help taxpayers recognize a scam and avoid becoming a victim.
An Identity Protection PIN is a six-digit number eligible taxpayers get to help prevent their Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number from being used to file fraudulent federal income tax returns. This number helps the IRS verify a taxpayer’s identity and accept their tax return. The Get An IP PIN tool enables anyone with an SSN or ITIN to get an IP PIN after verifying their identity through a rigorous authentication process. For security reasons, tax pros cannot get an IP PIN on behalf of clients.
The “Dirty Dozen” is a list of common tax scams that target taxpayers. Compiled and issued annually every year by the IRS, this year it includes many aggressive and evolving schemes related to coronavirus tax relief, including Economic Impact Payments. The criminals behind these bogus schemes view everyone as potentially easy prey, and everyone should be on guard, especially vulnerable populations such as the elderly.
Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses a taxpayer’s stolen personal information, such as a Social Security number, to file a tax return claiming a false refund. Thieves are actively working to steal taxpayer information and identities, and everyone should do everything they can to prevent identity theft.
Starting in January 2021, the IRS Identity Protection PIN Opt-In Program will be expanded to all taxpayers who can properly verify their identity. Previously, IP PINs were only available to identity theft victims.
Starting December 13, 2020, the IRS began masking sensitive data on business tax transcripts. Previously, only sensitive data on individual tax transcripts was masked.
The IRS mails millions of notices and letters to taxpayers every year for a variety of reasons. If you receive correspondence from the IRS don’t panic. You can usually deal with a notice by simply responding to it; most IRS notices are about federal tax returns or tax accounts. Each notice has specific instructions, so read your notice carefully because it will tell you what you need to do. In most cases, your notice will be about changes to your account, taxes you owe or a payment request; however, your notice may also ask you for more information about a specific issue.
Taxpayers should be on the lookout for calls and email phishing attempts regarding the Coronavirus, or COVID-19 that could lead to tax-related fraud and identity theft. Because criminals take every opportunity to perpetrate a fraud on unsuspecting victims during times of need, taxpayers should also be skeptical about text messages received and websites and social media attempts to request money or personal information.
Tax-related ID theft occurs when someone uses a taxpayer’s stolen personal information to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund. Thieves then use personal information like a stolen Social Security number. While the accounting profession and IRS work hard to prevent identity theft, taxpayers also play an important role.