Don’t fall for fake IRS communications

Educational Articles | 05.31.2013

These days identity theft is running rampant.  We hear it in the news everyday: stolen passwords, compromised accounts, and malicious software accessing information on our computers.  The internet has made it much easier for our personal information to be compromised and, unfortunately, criminals have now concocted ways to take advantage of individual and business tax return filers.

According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the IRS discovered more than 1.8 million tax-related ID thefts during 2012, which is 4 times the number that took place in 2010.  This year the IRS also noted identity theft on the very top of the list that they release every year entitled “The Dirty Dozen”, which outlines the top 12 tax scams.  Though the tax season has passed, the scammers are still out there, working hard.  It is good idea to familiarize yourself with what to look for in the coming months and in future tax seasons so you can avoid falling prey to their identity theft tactics.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that the IRS will not contact you by email asking for your personal and financial information.  If you receive an email asking you for information or sending you to a suspicious website, you should avoid opening any links or attachments, and either delete the email immediately or report it to the IRS.  Identity thieves have begun imitating real IRS communications with fake emails and websites to lure unsuspecting victims.  For example: you may receive a message stating that your tax return was received, but that more information is needed by the IRS to complete it.  Some emails may direct you to a website that looks like the official IRS website, but is fraudulent, and then prompt you to enter your personal and financial information in order to complete your tax return.

Approximately one-quarter of tax filers do so in the last week leading up to the tax filing deadline, and with the upswing in cases of tax identity theft, many find that their taxes have already been completed, fraudulently.  The IRS has taken steps in recent years to help prevent scams, and the Identity Protection Specialized Unit is a large department within the IRS devoted to helping victims get these cases resolved. However, navigating through this process can be tedious and cumbersome, and it may be helpful for victims to solicit the help of a trusted tax advisor.

If you are a victim and you choose to employ the help of your tax advisor, you will still need to diligent about checking your bank statements and credit reports.  Once your personal or financial information has been compromised, there is always a possibility that someone may use it, and the sooner you notice it, the less damage they can do.

If you are uncomfortable about communication you have received from the IRS, or if you have any questions about your taxes and identity theft, you can contact your tax advisor for help.

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