Thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams. Scammers use the regular mail, telephone, or email to steal information. Here is a list of seven tax scams to look out for, and how to protect yourself!
1. Phishing: Fake emails or websites impersonate the IRS in an attempt to steal information about refunds or Economic Impact Payments (EIPs). The IRS will never initiate contact with taxpayers via email. Be extra wary of any websites and emails making heavy use of COVID-19 terms like stimulus, coronavirus and Economic Impact Payment.
2. Fake charities: Criminals exploit the fear and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic to set up bogus charities that rob innocent victims who believe they’re helping the unfortunate. The “charity” may even claim to be working on behalf of the IRS to help victims of the virus get their tax refunds. Charities with familiar-sounding names that aggressively market themselves are often bogus charities trying to make donors believe they represent the actual well-known organization. They will also refuse to provide an Employer Identification Number (EIN) when asked, and will not have a positive review on sites like Charity.org. Taxpayers can also search for legitimate charities using the IRS charity search tool.
3. Threatening impersonator phone calls: An alleged IRS agent threatens the victim with arrest, deportation or license revocation if taxes are not paid immediately by prepaid gift card or wire transfer. The IRS will never threaten a taxpayer or demand immediate payment over the phone. It also will not insist on being paid via gift card or wire transfer.
4. Social media scams: Scammers use information that can be found on social media platforms for a variety of scams, including the impersonation of the victim’s friend to access the victims’ more private information. This deception often ends in tax-related identity theft. The victim’s “friend” will claim to be in a compromised position and to urgently need the victim’s personal information. When contacted privately, though, the “friend” will have no knowledge of the interaction.
5. EIP or refund theft: Scammers steal taxpayers’ identities, file false tax returns in their names and pocket their refunds and their EIPs. Personal information should never be shared online with an unverified contact, even if the contact promises to assist in tax filing or receiving the EIP.
6. Senior fraud: Scammers, or long-term caregivers of the elderly, file tax returns on their behalf and then pocket the refunds and EIPs. Seniors should be wary of bogus emails, text messages and fake websites asking them to share their personal information.
7. Ransomware: Malware infects a victim’s computer, network or server, and tracks keystrokes and/or other computer activity. Sensitive data is then encrypted and locked. When the victim tries to access their data, they’ll receive a pop-up message demanding a ransom payment for the return of their information. Links embedded in emails from unverified sources should never be opened. Tax software should not be downloaded unless it features multi-factor authentication.
Learn about ways to keep your finances safe with the SeaComm Fraud Center, which includes valuable resources provided to educate and empower credit union members to protect their assets and identities. Click here to learn more!
You can also take advantage of your Benefits Plus® membership as a way to protect yourself from fraudulent activity. Once you’ve upgraded your basic checking account to a Benefits Plus® checking with SeaComm, you will gain access to a variety of identity theft protection services including fraud alerts, identity theft alerts, lost document recovery services, and more. Stop by your local SeaComm branch to enroll!
For complete information, terms, conditions and exclusions please visit www.benefits-plus.org or call 866-329-7587.