Cyber-criminals typically increase their activity in the first part of the year through phone scams and email phishing schemes. These scammers try to obtain personal information using different tricks and tactics so they can file income tax returns and claim refunds on behalf of unsuspecting taxpayers. Some scammers may also allege a taxpayer owes taxes and aggressively demand payment for a quick payout.
Taxpayers need to be on high alert for possible scams and schemes during this time of year and throughout the income tax filing season. When taxpayers proactively look for scams, they are less likely to be a victim of a tax-related identity theft and other cyber-criminal activities.
Remember, the Internal Revenue Service and State Treasury Departments will never:
- Initiate a phone call or email to ask for personal information.
- Call or email to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, they will first send a bill through the US mail to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
- Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
Cyber-criminals often alter caller ID numbers and emails to make it look like State Treasury Departments, the IRS or another official agency is contacting a taxpayer. Scammers may use employee titles, a person’s name, address and other personal information to sound official.
If you are contacted by a scammer, immediately cease the call or delete the email.