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As tax season approaches, so do scammers

The Internal Revenue Service Building - Photo Supplied / Kayla Blakeslee WOWO News

INDIANA – (WOWO/AP): As tax season approaches, people will likely see more scams, the Federal Trade Commission warns. There’s little to prevent a criminal from picking up the phone or sending a bogus email, but there are four things you can do when these fishy communications arrive:



  1. Know how the IRS initiates contact. “The IRS should never, ever be contacting you by email, ever. They should never ever be contacting you by phone. They should only be contacting you via letter,” CPA Joe Seifert says.
  2. Report creepy messages. You can forward shady tax-related emails to phishing@irs.gov and report suspicious phone calls to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and the Federal Trade Commission. Collecting these reports recently helped the Department of Justice indict dozens of people in an alleged international call-center fraud scheme.
  3. Verify issues with the IRS or your state tax authority. Question out-of-the-blue communications about alleged tax balances. If you owe back taxes, or think you might, call your tax professional, the IRS or the state tax department directly, Seifert says. A new online tool at IRS.gov also lets you look up unpaid taxes, penalties and interest.
  4. Never pay over the phone. Even if you owe, the IRS never asks for credit, debit, prepaid card or bank information via phone, email, text or social media. If someone does, “Just hang up on them,” Seifert says.

In roughly the last three years, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the body that oversees the IRS, has received more than 1.8 million reports of calls from people impersonating IRS employees, and almost 10,000 victims have lost a total of nearly $50 million.

Tax-related email phishing and malware incidents shot up 400 percent in the 2016 tax season, according to the IRS. Recent schemes include calls threatening arrest for an overdue, fictitious “federal student tax,” emails with fake tax bills attached and IRS impersonators demanding payment via gift cards or prepaid cards.



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