You may think we harp on you a lot about protecting yourself against identity theft and tax scams. You are right… but we do it because having your identity stolen becomes an absolute financial nightmare, sometimes taking years to straighten out. Identity thieves are clever and relentless, and they are always coming up with new schemes to trick you. And all you have to do is slip up just once to compromise your identity, and your nightmare will 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 these unscrupulous people use is requesting your personal information by e-mail. They are pretty good at making their e-mails look as if they came from a legitimate source such as the IRS, your credit card company, or your bank.
You need to be very careful when responding to e-mails 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 e-mail. If one does, the e-mail should be deleted and ignored, just like spam e-mails.
We have seen bogus e-mails 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:
- E-mails that appear to be from the IRS indicating you have a refund coming and claiming that additional information is needed to process the refund. The IRS never initiates communication via e-mail! If you receive this type of e-mail, right away, you should know that it is bogus. If you are concerned, please free to call this office.
- E-mails 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.
- E-mails 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.
We could go on and on with examples. The key here is for you to be highly suspect of any e-mail requesting personal or financial information or requesting an immediate tax payment. Scammers will generally request payment be made by gift card, which should be an immediate RED FLAG!
A good rule of thumb is to STOP – THINK – 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, call this office 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 hoodwinked by these thieves. The best practice is to have a tax professional review any letter that you receive before you take any action. If the letter is real, then it will require a timely response, but if it is fake, it should be ignored.
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 know 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.