Everyone’s favorite season is here! No, we're not invoking the freshness of spring or getting our baseball gloves just yet. We’re talking about… tax season.

Kidding aside, most of us have busied ourselves collecting documents, pecking our way through confusing software, and scratching our heads over what does — or does not — count as a deduction. The entire ordeal is annoyingly complicated, to say the least.  

But that isn’t the worst part. While you tussle with 1040’s and 1099’s, there are scammers lurking about just waiting for an opening to steal your identity and your hard earned rebate.  

We want to help you prevent the cyber crooks from making a mess of your finances, and provide some useful information on how to get help if you’ve already been affected by tax scams.  

Some of the Most Common Scamming Methods 

  • When a malicious actor already has personal information about you – name, address, date of birth, Social Security Number, etc. – they may use this information to file a tax return in your name and attempt to collect your refund! This is identity theft, identity fraud, and tax fraud all in one.  
  • A scammer will call you and pretend to be an IRS agent. Often, they’ll use scary and urgent-sounding language to convince you to pay a fine or provide financial information, working hard to prevent you hanging up the phone. Of course, when you fall for this one, the fines and refunds will be collected by the scammers, not the IRS.  
  • Tax-related spam, phishing emails and fraudulent websites try to trick you into providing login names, passwords or other information, which can be used to commit further fraud. These emails and websites may also download malware or ransomware onto your computer. 


Red Flags to Watch Out For 

  • Be suspicious if the first contact you receive is via email, phone or other means. The IRS will always first send you an official letter in the mail.  
  • Don’t be fooled by unsolicited calls. The IRS will never demand payment over the phone, much less require using a specific payment method such as a debit/credit card, a prepaid card, a gift card, or a wire transfer. 
  • If you receive a call or text from someone claiming to be an IRS representative and they are hostile, insulting or aggressive this is likely a scam. IRS agents aren’t going to threaten to have you arrested, that’s a scammer’s game.
  • If someone requests sensitive information online, including PINs, passwords or similar information for financial accounts, it’s likely a scam. 
  • Beware of fake caller IDs. If you’re not sure of the legitimacy of the call, ask for the agent’s name, and then hang up and call the IRS back using a phone number from their official website. 
  • Watch out for spoofed websites that look like the official website but are not. Double check the URL and look for secure web addresses that begin with HTTPS.  


How Can I Protect Myself? 

There are many things you can do to stop scammers in their tracks. Here are just a few tips to help keep you in the clear, knowing that you will be the only one to claim your refund this year:

  • File your taxes as soon as you can, before scammers do it for you! If a criminal files a tax return in your name before you do, you'll have the arduous process of proving that you didn't file the return, and subsequently correcting the return. If you’re first, that issue is moot. 
  • Be wary of calls, texts and emails asking for personal or tax data, or payment. And if a website asks for sensitive data, double check it’s the actual IRS site, and not run by a third-party.
  • Always contact IRS and other such institutions through their publicly posted customer service line. It’s easy to reproduce a number in caller ID, but no one is intercepting calls to the actual organization. Don't click on links from unsolicited messages. Type the verified, real website address into your web browser or do a Google search to find it.
  • Don’t open attachments from unsolicited messages. These may contain malware or ransomware. 
  • Only conduct financial business over trusted sites and networks. Don’t use public, guest, free, or insecure Wi-Fi networks. 
  • Use strong, unique passwords for all your accounts and protect them. Reusing passwords between accounts is a big risk that allows a breach of one account to affect many of them! 
  • Much of your personal information can be gathered online from sources like social media or past data breaches. Be careful about the information you share online.  
  • Don’t throw away documents containing confidential and financial information. Shred them.
  • Check your financial account statements and your credit report regularly for unauthorized activity. Consider putting a security freeze on your credit file with the major credit bureaus. This will prevent identity thieves from applying for credit or creating an IRS account in your name. 

If you receive a tax-related phishing or suspicious email at work, report it according to your organization’s cybersecurity policy. If you receive a similar email on your personal account, the IRS encourages you to forward the original suspicious email as an attachment to its [email protected] email account, or call the IRS at 1-800-908-4490.  

More information about tax scams is available on the IRS website and in the IRS Dirty Dozen list of tax scams. 

What if I’m already a victim? 

If you suspect you are a victim of tax fraud or identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Identity Theft website provides a step-by-step recovery plan. It also allows you to report if someone has filed a return fraudulently in your name, if your information was exposed in a major data breach, and many other types of fraud.  

You can find additional reporting information at the IRS Tax Scams help site

If you believe you're the victim of identity theft or identity fraud, immediately file a report with these agencies: 

If you receive spam or a phishing email about your taxes, do not click on the links or open any attachments. Instead forward the email to [email protected]. Other tax scams or frauds can be reported through the IRS. 
Keep a sharp eye out for red flags, follow these tips to protect yourself and your information, and you’ll stand a good chance at an easy, hassle-free tax season.  
For more information about how Starion Banks helps you protect your personal and business finances, visit our security page.