The April 18 tax filing deadline is fast approaching, and as Americans hurry to file, scammers are on the hunt for easy targets.
Previously, saying “the IRS will never call you” was an easy way to raise awareness about suspicious phone calls, but now the agency is partnering with debt collectors to gather back taxes. You will get a letter in the mail from both the IRS and one of the four contracting collectors before the collectors start to call, but identity thieves are taking full advantage of the confusion.
Investment adviser Rhett Wood of Retirement Solutions hears horror stories regularly from his clients, many of whom are seniors, a scammer's favorite target. He says tax season is a free for all.
“Since there’s all this activity going on with paying your taxes on time or owing taxes, it offers them the ability to impersonate those agencies and attempt to try to steal your information,” said Wood.
While many come in the form of phone calls, Wood said scammers may also email you posing as your tax preparer.
“It’s requesting that they update their personal banking account information, where their direct deposit is going to go,” he said.
If you receive a suspicious email, you can forward it to the IRS through firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wood suggests if you get a call or email requesting information, reach out to your trusted tax-preparer on your own to make sure it is them, and protect any personal information you store on the Internet.
“If you pay your taxes online, change your password frequently and don’t use the same password that you use for every single other website,” said Wood.
AARP has gotten heavily involved in combating fraud, creating the Fraud Watch Network with tools like an interactive map that shows reported scams in your area.
The organization has also launched Operation Stop Scams, hosting a series of document shredding events, like one in Oklahoma City on April 21.