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Welcome to prime-time scam season. This is when the advertisements for taxes in the USA really start to pick up. Granted, they go on all year long, but now is when we traditionally see an increase in volume. There are a variety of such scams.
The worst of the scams are the phishing attacks. If you get an email from the IRS and you did not initiate contact with the IRS, then the email is not really from the IRS. The IRS will never ask you for any information, like your bank account number or credit card information in email. These emails are always scams. Usually the emails say that you owe the IRS money or the IRS owes you money. The idea is to trick you into going to a web site, or sending an email and providing information used to steal from your credit card or bank account. This information may also be used for identity theft.
For virtually everyone, IRS emails are 100% fake. Don’t respond to them and do not follow links in them.
Other scams include fake offers to help with your taxes. These can be as simple as offers to file online to expensive offers to do your taxes for you. If you get an offer to do your taxes for much less than others are charging then it is probably because the person making the offer is going to simply take your money and do nothing at all. Worse yet, they may do it wrong and you are still responsible for any owed taxes and penalties.
Always use a reputable tax preparer. It is a god idea to use someone who is listed with the Better Business Bureau unless you have personal references from people with experience with the tax preparer.
Do your friends and relatives a favor and remind them that emails from the IRS are fake, even if they look legitimate. If there are any questions you can always call the IRS to be sure, but not using a phone number in the email.
I’m sure we will revisit this subject in future blogs. There are still lots of people falling for the scams.
Director of Technical Education
Author ESET Research, ESET