As the 2017 tax filing season begins, taxpayers should prepare for heightened risk and be vigilant when it comes to tax fraud. Scammers use a variety of tactics, such as phishing, phone scams and fraudulent filings.
Check out the following tips from the Research Education Network – Information Sharing and Analysis Center to help reduce your risk of falling victim to tax fraud.
Common attack tactics
Be sure to look out for the following methods of tax fraud:
- Fraudulent filings: Attempting to use victims’ personal information to file fraudulent tax returns, then claiming resulting refunds. Taxpayer victims generally have no idea that anything is wrong until they attempt to submit their own returns. In many cases, it is extremely difficult to determine how the perpetrators were able to get the victims’ filing information.
- Phone fraud: Unsolicited calls to taxpayers fraudulently claiming to be IRS officials and demanding that they send them cash via prepaid debit cards.
- Phishing: Scammers pose as legitimate entities — such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), other government agencies, and financial institutions — in an attempt to defraud taxpayers. They use phishing emails to lure users to open malicious email attachments or visit malicious sites to gain access to passwords and sensitive information.
Actions to prevent and combat fraud
Be proactive about protecting sensitive information. The following steps will go a long way in helping prevent identity theft:
- Beware of contact purportedly from the IRS by phone, email, text, or social media. The IRS will never contact taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information or demand immediate payment via phone.
- Report suspicious activity to firstname.lastname@example.org or file a report with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Payer Administration (TIGTA), the Federal Trade Commission, and the police.
- Call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-0433 to confirm legitimate communications from them.
Remember to protect personally identifiable information:
- Do not open email attachments or click on links from unknown or questionable sources.
- File tax returns early to thwart identity thieves.
- Protect organizational and personal credentials by using a strong password.
- Do not provide social security numbers and financial account information to anyone unless required.
- Reduce personally identifiable information provided in online systems.
- Be cautious about sending emails to individuals that link them directly to login pages, which could unintentionally train users to be susceptible to phishing.
If you think you are a victim of identity fraud, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 and the states where you file taxes to ensure steps are taken to secure your information.
-By Jeffery Pounds, information security officer and executive director, Compliance and Audit Services at Baylor College of Medicine