Get Started: IRS warns against phone and phishing scams

By FeaturesAssociated Press

PHONE AND PHISHING SCAMS

Income tax filing season brings an increase in activity by would-be thieves using phone calls and email to try to get money out of taxpayers. That warning comes from the IRS.

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Phone scams often involve someone calling a taxpayer, telling them they owe taxes and could be arrested if they don't pay. The thieves try to frighten taxpayers into giving them their credit card numbers and perhaps other personal information. Sometimes the first call is a recorded message that demands the taxpayer return the call.

The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by phone. And if someone owes money to the government, they'll first get a bill through the mail. The IRS also does not demand payment until after a taxpayer has had time to question and/or appeal a bill. The agency also says it does not ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

The IRS also does not make its first contact with taxpayers via email. So an unexpected email purportedly from the IRS should immediately be viewed with suspicion — it's probably a scam.

Phishing scams also go after a taxpayer's money. One of thieves' most common tactics is to send an email that looks legitimate and contains a link or attachment that, when clicked on, downloads software that can steal information like passwords for bank accounts and credit card numbers. Or, the email can ask for Social Security numbers and other personal information — which the IRS would not do in an email.

And while some phishing scams are designed to look like they're from the IRS, there are other ways that thieves carry them out. Anyone can be infected if they visit a website that's been hacked. And there have been cases where tax preparers' computers have been hacked and their clients' personal information stolen, the IRS says.

Taxpayers should keep a close eye on activity in all their accounts — bank, credit and debit cards, online payment accounts etc. Any unexpected withdrawals or deposits should be reported immediately.

You can learn more on the IRS website, www.irs.gov . Search for "scams."

A FIRST BIG MILESTONE

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Follow Joyce Rosenberg at www.twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg . Her work can be found here: https://apnews.com/search/joyce%20rosenberg