Tax Scams to Watch Out For This Summer

By Markets Fool.com

The IRS will never ask you to give credit card information over the phone.

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The tax deadline has passed, and it may seem like now is the time to relax and forget about tax scammers for the time being. While it's true that you don't need to worry about certain scams if you've already filed, such as a criminal filing a false return in your name, the summer months are prime time for certain types of tax scams. Here's what you should be on the lookout for and what you can do to prevent falling victim to a scammer this summer.

What scams should you look for?

Phone scams have become extremely common, where a caller impersonates an IRS agent and demands payment for a phony tax bill. These take many different forms, but the common factor is that the caller is generally aggressive and threatening (a big red flag that it's not the IRS) and will demand immediate payment, often in the form of a prepaid debit card or wire transfer.

These scams are common in the months immediately following the tax deadline, since it's plausible to many unsuspecting taxpayers that the IRS has received their return and is now calling to alert them of an unpaid balance.

These callers can be rather convincing. They may have an official-sounding title, give a fake badge number, and they might know a great deal of personal information about you. The caller ID may even say IRS or some variation. This is why scammers have been successful at stealing $26.5 million from unsuspecting taxpayers so far.

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Another type of tax scam to look out for is phishing, which is where an intended victim receives an unsolicited email intended to obtain personal information or to trick you into sending money. Like phone scams, this takes many forms, such as telling a taxpayer to "update their file" with the IRS and sending them to a bogus website.

Fortunately, phishing scams are relatively easy to spot if you know what to look for. Specifically, any official IRS website begins with www.irs.gov (not irs.com, irsgov.com, or any other variation). If an "IRS" website you're looking at doesn't start with this address, it's probably a fake.

Thieves are creative, so don't fall for any tricks

In order to stay a step ahead of law enforcement and unsuspecting taxpayers, criminals are constantly coming up with new and improved scams designed to get your money. Many of these can be quite convincing and official sounding, and may even say some variation of "IRS" on your caller ID.

For example, the IRS recently issued a warning to taxpayers, particularly college students, about a phone scam variation where an IRS impersonator calls to demand payment for the Federal Student Tax. Sounds official, right? Well, the Federal Student Tax doesn't exist, but that hasn't stopped several college students from wiring money to these scammers after false threats of arrest.

Know what the IRS won't do

One of the best ways to identify and prevent tax scans is to know what the IRS doesn't do. For example, the IRS will never call to demand immediate payment over the phone. In fact, the IRS won't call you at all about past-due taxes without mailing you a bill first.

In addition, the IRS will never:

  • Threaten to have local police or other law enforcement organizations arrest you if you don't pay
  • Initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text message, or social media
  • Demand you pay taxes, unless you've have the opportunity to appeal the amount they say you owe
  • Require a specific payment method. The IRS gladly accepts checks, as well as credit and debit cards through authorized third-party websites you can access through www.irs.gov.
  • Ask for a credit card (or debit card) number over the phone

The bottom line on tax scams

Like any other type of scam, the best way to avoid being victimized by a tax scam is to know what to look for. If you know what the IRS does and doesn't do and what a legitimate IRS web address is, you can avoid phone and phishing tax scams 100% of the time.

The article Tax Scams to Watch Out For This Summer originally appeared on Fool.com.

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