As the tax filing season approaches, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is warning taxpayers and tax professionals to remain vigilant against emerging scams and safeguard sensitive information.
IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel emphasized the relentless nature of identity thieves, emphasizing the need for people to exercise caution with their personal data and to be wary of email and text-based scams. Werfel warned that during tax season, scammers frequently impersonate the IRS, state tax agencies, or other entities within the tax industry. He advised individuals to exercise extreme caution when encountering unexpected messages, as they could be elaborate traps set by scam artists.
Identity thieves often exploit recent news events and tragedies to deceive taxpayers, as per the IRS. Additionally, a common tax season scam involves identity thieves posing as potential new clients and contacting tax professionals via email or phone to gain access to a company’s systems, which could enable them to file fraudulent tax returns in order to claim refunds.
Taxpayers should remain vigilant against phishing emails sent by fraudsters who pose as the IRS or other legitimate entities, such as state tax organizations or financial firms. These emails typically entice unsuspecting victims with the promise of a fictitious tax refund or false accusations of tax fraud. Similarly, a technique known as “smishing” involves sending text messages claiming that a taxpayer’s account has been suspended or sending fake reports of unusual account activity along with fraudulent “solutions” to restore the account.
The IRS stressed that individuals should never respond to tax-related phishing or smishing attempts, nor should they click on any URL links contained within such messages. Instead, recipients should promptly report such scams by forwarding the email or a copy of the text/SMS as an attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The IRS also emphasized that most of its communications are initiated through regular mail. Therefore, taxpayers should be cautious of unexpected messages received via email, text, or social media regarding bills or tax refunds. Such messages should be verified for authenticity and exercise caution.
Furthermore, the IRS Security Summit partners echoed the importance of not clicking on unsolicited communications claiming to be from the IRS or other tax-related entities. Such links may discreetly load malware onto the recipient’s device or, even worse, enable malicious hackers to install ransomware, preventing the device owner from accessing their system or files.