Don’t Be Duped by Clever Scammers

Article Highlights:

  • Scammers disguise emails to look legitimate.
  • Legitimate businesses and the IRS never request sensitive personal and financial information by email.
  • Don’t become a victim.
  • Stop – Think – Delete
  • Be alert for phony letters and phone calls

It is necessary to protect yourself against identity theft and tax scams. Having your identity stolen is a financial nightmare that can sometimes take years to straighten out. Identity thieves are smart, relentless, and always coming up with new schemes. All it takes is one slip up to compromise your identity, and your nightmare could begin. 

What they try to do is trick you into divulging personal information such as your bank account numbers, passwords, credit card numbers, or Social Security number.

One of the most popular methods scammers use is requesting your personal information by email. They are pretty good at making their emails look as if they came from a legitimate source such as the IRS, your credit card company, or your bank.

It’s essential to be very careful when responding to emails asking you to update things such as your account information, personal identification number (PIN), or password. First and foremost, you should be aware that no legitimate company would make such a request by email. If one does, the email should be deleted and ignored, just like spam emails.

We have seen bogus emails that looked like they were from the IRS, well-known banks, credit card companies, and other pseudo-legitimate enterprises. The intent is to trick you and have you click through to a website that also appears legitimate, where they have you enter your secure information. Here are some examples:

  • Any emails from the IRS saying you have a refund coming, and claiming that additional information is needed to process the refund. The IRS never initiates communication via email. If you receive this type of email, right away, you should know that it is bogus. If you are concerned, please contact us.
  • Emails from a bank indicating that it is holding a wire transfer and needs your bank routing information and account number. Don’t respond; if in doubt, call your bank.
  • Emails saying you have a foreign inheritance and that the sender needs your bank info to wire the funds. The funds that will get wired are yours going the other way. Remember: if it seems too good to be true, it generally is.

We have seen cases where elderly individuals have been duped out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and sometimes their entire life savings. The scammers primarily rely on individuals’ fear of the IRS, coupled with a phony urgent need to make a payment to avoid arrest, foreclosure, or property seizure.

The list of examples is endless. The key here is for you to be highly suspect of any email requesting personal or financial information or requesting an immediate tax payment. Scammers will generally request you pay by gift card, which should be an immediate red flag. 

A good rule of thumb is to stop, think, and delete. 

If you receive electronic correspondence from the IRS, your state taxing agency, a credit card company, or a financial institution and feel uncomfortable ignoring it, contact us to check so you won’t need to worry.

Knowing that this is the time of year when the IRS sends correspondence to taxpayers, scammers will send fake letters to trick people into making payments on bogus tax liabilities. As a result, taxpayers need to be very careful to avoid being deceived by these thieves. The best practice is to have your Tarlow tax professional review any letter that you receive before you take any action. If the message is real, then it will require a timely response, but if it is fake, you should ignore it.

Scammers have also been known to call individuals and threaten immediate arrest if a payment related to a phony liability is not immediately made. Just the threat of arrest is enough to understand that the call is from a scammer, and you should immediately hang up.

Bottom line: you must be on guard against these scammers at all times. Your life can become a nightmare if your identity is stolen. Identity thieves will even file tax returns under your Social Security number, claiming huge refunds and leaving you with a horrendous mess to clean up with the IRS. Don’t be a victim. Please contact us if you believe your tax ID has been compromised.