Fraudsters launch new tax scams and revive old ones: Internet Scambusters #952
Crooks are using three new tax scams to defraud victims and steal their identity information, while continuing to rely on dozens more well-tested tricks.
But we've got the information to help you stay safe in this week's issue, with an in-depth look at both the new and old scams.
We also have a warning about fraudsters pretending to be from international money transfer services trying to get their hands on your account and your cash.
Let's get started…
Why IRS Texts and Emails Signal a Tax Scam
Did you just get a text message from the IRS? Ignore it. Was your tax return rejected? Maybe not. How about a refund message from the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel? Ignore that one too. Or perhaps you're puzzled about why you received a form 1099-G when you didn't get unemployment benefits.
All of these are potential signs of the latest tax scams. Alongside them, there are many others that have been around for years, which the scammers have dusted off for a new onslaught against us hardworking taxpayers.
Knowing that, it's time to double your vigilance as the first filing deadline approaches.
Let's take a look at those three new tax scams that have emerged this year.
Fake IRS Texts
There's a simple rule about texts from the Internal Revenue Service. They don't send them. Period.
But since many people don't know that, they've fallen into the grasp of crooks who've been sending out SMS messages at random telling them their return has been rejected.
The message is written in a friendly tone announcing the rejection and adding something like, "but don't worry, we'll help you fix the problem."
It's a phishing scam that takes you to a fake IRS site where you're asked to enter all your details like your Social Security number and bank account information.
A similar fake text ruse was used last year to notify recipients about their entitlement to a stimulus payment. Again, their aim was to steal bank information or even the victim's actual payment.
With the prospect of another stimulus check on the horizon (at the time of writing), we can expect to see this con trick re-emerge.
Anyone who receives a fake IRS message is asked to forward it to 202-552-1226.
Note that, in addition to not using texts, the IRS also never sends unsolicited emails asking for personal information.
Note that you might get a text from your tax preparer, if you use one. This may well be genuine, but these too are also being faked. So, don't click on links. Call your preparer to check instead.
TAP Refund Message
The Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP) is a genuine Federal Advisory Committee that advises the IRS. It's a volunteer organization that reports on important taxation issues.
But it doesn't notify taxpayers about refunds. In fact, it doesn't have access to individual taxpayers' details. So, it's not in a position to email or phone anyone.
But that's exactly what's been happening. The scammers seem to think their targets are more likely to believe they're genuine because many people are switched on to their pose as IRS officials.
Bottom line: Emails and telephone calls supposedly from TAP are fake.
Form 1099-G Mysteries
Among the dozens of forms the IRS uses to calculate how much tax you pay, there's one called a 1099-G that has taken on additional significance this year -- because it relates to unemployment benefits.
These form are provided by state employment departments. If you get one and you haven't received benefits, this could signal that someone has claimed money in your name. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of these have been identified in recent weeks.
The picture has become even more complicated as some 1099-Gs relating to genuine recipients are reported to have been sent to the wrong addresses.
According to the non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), if either of these situations applies to you, you should first contact your state employment office and ask them to issue a corrected 1099-G showing either the right amount or the fact that you did not receive benefits.
If this isn't issued in time, ITRC recommends you file your return with the correct, accurate information.
For more on this, see 1099-G Form Could Surprise Many with Unemployment Benefits Fraud.
More Tax Scams
The IRS has also issued alerts about several other scams, including:
- "Ghost" tax preparers -- individuals who may or may not be qualified preparers who don't sign the forms they return.
"Not signing a return is a red flag that the paid preparer may be looking to make a quick profit by promising a big refund or charging fees based on the size of the refund," the agency says.
- Transcript hooks -- emails that claim to have attached or link to the transcript of a recent conversation with the IRS. Curious recipients may be tempted to click, but if they do, they'll either be taken to a fake IRS page or download malware onto their PCs.
- Fee requests supposedly to receive your stimulus check. There is no such legitimate fee.
- Bureau of Tax Enforcement demands for settlement of owed taxes. The bureau does not exist.
- The "Dirty Dozen." Every year, the IRS produces a list of the 12 worst tax scams. You can access the latest ones and check out past years' lists.
You can also learn a lot more about tax scams, how to spot them, and what to do if you're conned in the many issues available free on the Scambusters site. Start here.
Alert of the Week
Do you use international services to transfer money between countries?
One of the world's big service providers, TransferWise, says it's seen a surge in scams where fraudsters pretend to be from the organization's support team requesting access to the victim's account.
As always, you should never accept that a caller or mailer is who they say they are and never give account information to an unsolicited incoming call.
Always visit your service provider's website and deal with any issues there.
If you think you've already been scammed, contact the provider immediately -- and file a police report.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!