While enjoying your cup of cheer this holiday season, don’t forget to stay vigilant against tax fraud attempts too. This December, the IRS released an official warning to taxpayers that there has been a surge of “sophisticated email phishing scams” hitting consumer inboxes right before the holidays.
Tax scams like these are hardly new, but data from the IRS indicates that the problem is worsening with each passing year. According to their numbers, from 2017 to 2018 there was a whopping 60% increase in email schemes to steal tax data from unwitting victims. Because the holidays take place at the end of the year, many people incorrectly assume that the IRS is just beginning to examine their tax liability – and demand payment. This can make people vulnerable to the scammer’s tactics.
How to Protect Against Tax Scams
Even more savvy than the Nigerian prince scammers of the 90’s, the email phishing scammers of 2018 use stolen IRS logos, duped email addresses, and fake “tax transcripts” to alarm their recipients into paying them. Once you click on a link contained within the email text, or download a PDF attachment, you may also be downloading dangerous malware and viruses onto your hard drive. From there, the thieves can gain access to your most sensitive financial data and tax records.
But with that level of sophistication, how can you reasonably protect yourself from an official-looking email? At The Buchalter Law Group, our Brevard County IRS & tax lawyers are very familiar with the internal procedures and processes of the real Internal Revenue Service, and we’re here to help you clear up some of the misconceptions.
You can identify a scam whenever the following is true:
- The email sender demands immediate payment or credit card information. Unlike the real IRS, the thieves are only interested in your money, and have no regulatory requirements to meet before they can press for it. Legally, the IRS is required to send you a written notice long before your tax payments are due.
- The email uses threatening language about the police or ICE. Local law enforcement are typically never involved with the real Internal Revenue Service, and deportation is an unlikely result. Any similar threats should raise the red flag that your email is from a scammer.
- There’s no opportunity for you to appeal or challenge their findings. Even after you have been notified about outstanding tax payments, the actual IRS has to give taxpayers a chance to appeal the decision through proper, government-approved channels. If there’s no hint that you can appeal, it’s probably a scam.
Even more critically, it’s important to remember that the IRS almost exclusively uses letters in the mail to correspond with taxpayers, to avoid just the kind of hacking attempts that have been rising in recent years. If you receive a suspicious looking email from the IRS, do not open any attachments, and be sure to forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org so they can collect additional data.
Need help with tax matters in Brevard County? You can rely on The Buchalter Group for help with IRS appeals, audits, and more. Contact us at (321) 320-6088 for a free consultation.