As we near America's favorite Tax Day "holiday," which falls on April 18 this year, tax payers are reminded to be mindful of potential tax scams. Tax scams can come in multiple forms, including (1) filing fraudulent tax returns using another individual's information, (2) posing as an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agent to solicit sensitive information from an individual or to demand payment of a fine, or (3) using viruses and other types of malicious code to obtain sensitive information. Ultimately, each of these scams attempts to defraud an individual of either money or sensitive information for illicit purposes. To avoid falling victim to one of these scams as the individual tax filing deadline approaches, consider these tips:
- Be mindful of "spoofed" websites and/or emails that look official but are not. Be on the lookout for extra letters in words or strange characters in a URL or email address. Suspected scam emails can be forwarded to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org, and additional information and reporting options can be obtained at https://www.irs.gov/uac/Report-Phishing. For more information on phishing scams, please read our previous alert discussing an active hacker scheme that resulted in the release of employees' W-2 information.
- Do not be fooled by unsolicited phone calls – the IRS will never: (1) call to demand immediate payment, (2) demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount, (3) require you to use a specific payment method, (4) ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone, or (5) threaten to involve law enforcement groups.
- If your telephone Caller ID indicates that an individual is an IRS agent, but you are not sure, ask for the agent's name. Then, hang up and call the IRS (or applicable state tax agency) using a phone number from the agency's official website (which should be a website associated with a .gov domain name) and request to speak to the agent.
The IRS shares information regarding recent tax scams on its website at https://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Scams-Consumer-Alerts, and individuals can report potential tax scams at https://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Tax-Scams-How-to-Report-Them. Additionally, if you believe that you have been the victim of a tax scam, the Federal Trade Commission provides a helpful walkthrough for reporting the suspected identify theft and steps to recovery at https://www.identitytheft.gov/.
Check out our series, Privacy Perils, to learn what steps you can take to guard your personal and company data. For more information about this topic and other cyber security concerns, please contact Bob Brewer, Tony McFarland, Elizabeth Warren or a member of our Privacy & Data Security team.