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Sunday September 25, 2022

Washington News

Washington Hotline

Top Tips To Avoid Identity Theft

In IR-2022-25 the Internal Revenue Service explained the latest strategies that fraudsters use to steal identities. With the tax filing season in full swing, taxpayers need to be on guard for strategies that may involve a text message, email, phone call or potential unemployment fraud.

IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig stated, "With the filing season underway, this is a prime period for identity thieves to hit people with realistic-looking emails and texts about their tax returns and refunds. Watching out for these common scams can keep people from becoming victims of identity theft, and protect their sensitive personal information that can be used to file tax returns and steal refunds."

1. Text Message Scams -- There has been an uptick in text messages that claim to represent the IRS. The fraudulent messages frequently have links to bogus IRS websites. The IRS emphasizes that it does not use text messages other than the IRS Secure Access service. The IRS also will not send text messages through social media.

If you receive a text message that claims to be from the IRS, you should take a screen shot and send it to phishing@IRS.gov. State the date and time you received the text message and your phone number. You can take a screen shot on an iPhone 13 by simultaneously clicking and releasing the side button and volume button. On other smartphone models, you may click the side button and home button or the top button and home button at the same time. The screen shot may then be accessed through your photos to email to phishing@IRS.gov.

2. Unemployment Fraud -- There is a surge in the efforts by organized crime rings to steal identities and file fraudulent unemployment claims with state agencies. Your state office will then issue IRS Form 1099-G, Certain Government Payments to the recipient and the IRS. If you receive a fraudulent or inaccurate Form 1099-G, you should report it to the state agency and obtain a corrected Form 1099-G. For information on unemployment fraud, go to DOL.gov/fraud. If you receive any communication from a state agency about an unemployment claim that you did not file or a notice from your employer about an unemployment claim that is improper, you should also report it on that same fraud page.

3. Email Phishing Scams -- The IRS emphasizes that it does not contact taxpayers through email to request personal or financial information. If you receive an unsolicited email, do not click on any links within it. Send the email as an attachment to phishing@IRS.gov. The Report Phishing and Online Scams webpage at IRS.gov provides additional information.

4. Phone Scams -- The IRS notes that it does not leave urgent or threatening messages on your phone or voicemail. Scammers will frequently threaten victims with arrest. They may also claim that law enforcement will be sent to your door, you could be deported or your driver's license could be revoked. It is possible to fake or "spoof" caller ID numbers. The scammer may attempt to spoof the caller ID number of a sheriff's office, a department of motor vehicles or a federal agency. The IRS emphasizes it will never call and demand payment through a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. It will also not ask for a credit or debit card over the phone.

If you receive a threatening call and do not owe taxes, hang up the phone. You can report the caller ID and callback number on phishing@IRS.gov. You may also report the call on FTC.gov and note "IRS Telephone Scam."

If you owe taxes or think you might have a bill with the IRS, you should nevertheless hang up the phone. You can create an online account on IRS.gov and review your information. There may be a phone number on a billing notice from the IRS or the general IRS number is 800-829-1040.

If you are a victim of identity theft and someone has used your Social Security number to file and claim a fraudulent refund, you may be contacted by the IRS. You should immediately respond to any IRS notice and call the listed number. You may file IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. If you are a victim of identity theft, you still must file and pay taxes. Many individuals use a paper form to pay their tax in this circumstance.

Editor's Note: IRS tax filing season always causes fraudsters to redouble their efforts. Taxpayers should be familiar with the principal ways scammers attempt to steal identities and file fraudulent returns.

Published February 4, 2022
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