tax tips — May 11, 2017

Am I Getting Scammed? Tax Fraud Still Happening After Tax Day

by Susannah McQuitty

Glasses resting on a tax form

As crazy as it may sound, the tax fraud and identity theft scammers are still in business. Many people think that, since they’ve stuffed their tax info back in the dark corners of their spare closets for the year, they can also kick back on the information security front too.

Not so fast. Here are a few tips on how to spot scammers who are still running strong, even after you’ve filed your taxes.

How to tell if the person at your door is really from the IRS

Sounds a bit like a spy movie, but IRS representatives showing up at your door is a rare but possible occurrence. Scammers also know this and bank on the panic of having someone at your door demanding money and threatening arrest.

First off, a real IRS rep will never threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying, and they will not demand that you make an immediate payment to a source other than the U.S. Treasury.

If a real IRS representative visits you, he or she will always provide two forms of official credentials: a pocket commission and an HSPD-12 card. HSPD-12 is a government-wide standard for secure and reliable forms of identification for federal employees and contractors, and you have the right to ask to see these credentials.

A calendar open to the days after tax day, when scammers are still active.

How to make sure a letter in the mail is actually from the IRS

There are several different reasons you might get a letter from the IRS. If the IRS has an issue, you’ll get a written notice explaining the problem and listing the agency involved, its address and its telephone number.

Aggressive, threatening letters with official letterhead and all the bells and whistles, on the other hand, are sent by scammers to force your hand before you stop to consider if the letter is actually valid.

If you get a letter claiming to be from the IRS, contact your local IRS office and ask them to help validate the request. For more info, check out this IRS.gov article on tax scammers.

What to do if you get a phone call from the IRS

Here’s an easy scam to spot: The IRS never asks you to send or verify personal information through emails, phone calls or texts. It’s all physical letters through the mail for the IRS, so any electronic request for your info is automatically a no-go.

A safe rule of thumb? If you’re contacted by someone claiming to be from the IRS but you haven’t received anything in the mail from them, that’s a major red flag. Even when you do get mail, you should follow up with your local IRS office to validate the letter. Using these simple tips and tricks to spot scammers can help prevent months and even years of damage to your wallet and identity.

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