Scammers are everywhere, and they’ll use any available means to cheat victims out of their money.
A popular scam is to impersonate an IRS agent and con victims into providing personal information. Scammers can use two approaches: (1) threaten victims if they don’t immediately pay overdue taxes or (2) tell victims they need to provide additional information in order to receive a pending refund.
Red Flags of Tax Scams
If you, or a client, has received a phone call or email for tax-related information, you should automatically be wary. Here are some signs that something is amiss:
- Demand for immediate payment
- No opportunity to question or appeal amount due
- Requesting credit card, bank or other personal information over the phone
- Requiring a specific payment method
- Threatening or aggressive behavior on behalf of the caller
If a client contacts you saying they received a phone call or email from the IRS regarding their personal tax information, you should immediately question what information, if any, the client provided to them.
Simply put, the IRS won’t ask for information via telephone or email. They still prefer old-fashioned snail mail to communicate. Please note that some scammers also send mail, so if a questionable letter is received, it is better to question it than put sensitive information in the wrong hands.
Tips to Avoid Being Scammed
Just like any other scam, there are ways to safeguard your information. Make sure you and your clients understand these safety tips:
- Never provide information over the phone.
- Do not click links in an email. Instead go to IRS.gov and look for information on their website.
- Seek advice from a tax professional if there is any question regarding tax communications.
The IRS has set up a web page dedicated to notifying taxpayers of existing scams. They also have a dedicated email for anyone to forward suspected scam emails, email@example.com.
Scammers don’t need everyone to fall into their trap for it to be successful.
Don’t let it be you or your client.
Samantha Cruff is the Marketing Communications Coordinator at Lawyers Mutual. Contact Samantha for information regarding our available risk management publications at 800.662.8843 or firstname.lastname@example.org. This article first appeared in the March 2015 issue of our Put Into Practice newsletter.