When it comes to taxes, someone is always trying to take your money and I'm not talking about the IRS.
Millions of taxpayers who are worried about making a tax mistake or who are looking for any way possible to cut a tax bill are perfect prey, and sometimes partners, of criminals at tax time.
So from January through mid-April, con artists and identity thieves use taxes as hook.
But tax concerns are year-round, and so are tax scams.
That's why this week's Weekly Tax Tip is a reminder to be on guard against tax cons 365 days a year.
The Internal Revenue Service continually tracks tax scams and issues an annual Dirty Dozen list. A few new schemes show up each year, but for the most part the tax cons are primarily oldies but goodies, or baddies if you're a victim.
Despite recent IRS crackdowns on taxable money hidden in foreign accounts, offshore tax shelter schemes are a tax scam fixture.
And then there are folks who pose as tax professionals and file questionable forms and fudge claims to get their clients a bigger refund. Of course, these tax preparers get a cut of the refunds, so they'll do what it takes to get as much money as possible from Uncle Sam.
Phishing forever: But the most prevalent tax scam is phishing.
Identity thieves posing as IRS agents send fake emails telling taxpayers that the agency needs more personal and financial data in order to process their returns or issue their refunds.
This fall, a new phishing scheme has hit email boxes. The false IRS message refers to a real tax document, Notice CP01H, and tells recipients that their tax account has been "locked." To open it and get any refund back on track, the scam target is told to reply to the email with additional information.
The IRS does not send taxpayers emails about their accounts.
Although the IRS, I and my fellow tax and personal finance bloggers and countless reputable tax professionals keep reminding y'all of this, too many people still fall for these phishing scams.
So I'm saying it once again:
- Don't believe these fake IRS emails.
- Don't reply to them.
- Don't open any links in them.
Do forward any suspicious tax email to the IRS at email@example.com. Then delete it from your computer.
And if you think your personal information has been stolen by tax scammers, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.
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