Don’t be tricked by common scams

Every year, various types of scams appear. Scam artists manage to steal millions of dollars each year through cleverly designed efforts to fool the unwitting. Since COVID-19, the IRS has sent several warnings that scammers are more active than ever.

Recently, the IRS warned consumers to beware of three types of scams. If you’re waiting for a tax refund, expecting a stimulus check, or looking for a job, you’ll want to avoid these scams.

Remember that some of these offers sound really good. So good that many people are drawn to it every year.

The common thread of scams

Almost all scams have the same principle, which will help you identify them. The agency (real or supposed) needs more personal information from you. Known as phishing scams, these official phone calls, emails, letters or text messages will attempt to trick you into revealing information. This information can then be used to steal your hard earned money.

Communication from a scammer often contains a threat to get you to provide your personal information or make some payment. The scammer may threaten you saying that you face legal action or arrest. They may say there is a problem with your social security. They may say your tax refund will be withheld or a lien will be placed on your property, and you must pay today, over the phone. Or, they may say they need more information to fill out a tax form or question.

Remember that the IRS will not call you. They will send you a letter if they need to contact you. (ClassicVector/Shutterstock)

Tips for identifying scams

Although fraudulent IRS scams come in different forms, two common techniques used by scammers are leaving a message on your voicemail or sending an email. Either will then ask you to return the call or go to a website where you can provide the “necessary” or “missing” information.

A primary way to recognize these scams is that the IRS will never contact you with a phone call, voicemail, or email. He will always use a letter to contact you first when there is a problem with your taxes. You can be directed to their secure website—Identity Verification Service-for validation.

When you receive a phone call that seems suspicious because the caller is asking for personal information or bank account numbers, just hang up. Legitimate calls from the IRS will not work this way.

If an email looks suspicious, don’t open it. Opening it might automatically download malware to your computer. When you see a link (which a scam email will contain), you can hover your mouse over the link to see where it might take you (the HTML address will appear in the lower left corner of your computer). Don’t click until you’re sure it’s a legitimate web address. If it is not legitimate, immediately delete the email.

Opening an email can also contain ransomware, which will lock your data until you pay the scammer. If this happens, your computer will be rendered unusable. Hopefully you will have backups of your data, which can be used to restore your information.

Finding out that you have been scammed.

If you are the victim of a tax scam and provide personal information, you may provide enough information for someone to steal your identity. When scammers do this, the IRS indicates that you can find out about it in one or more of the following ways:

  1. The IRS sends a letter asking about a tax return you never filed.
  2. When you try to file your taxes, the IRS reports a duplicate social security number.
  3. You receive a tax transcript in the mail that you never requested.
  4. IRS records indicate that you received salary for a company you never worked for.
Epoch Times Photo
Generally, the IRS will not email you regarding your taxes. (Shutterstock)

Offer in Compromise (OCI) Tax Scams

A tax scam that is gaining popularity is called the “offer in compromise” scam. When people have trouble paying their taxes, the IRS offers a real program of that name. It allows certain taxpayers to make payments or even to have their taxes reduced.

Some scammers take advantage of this legitimate IRS program making phone calls claiming they can help you pay your taxes for “pence on the dollar”. Of course, they will tell you that there is a limited time to take advantage of the offer. The scammer will also claim that you need their services to settle your tax debt.

The appeal of job postings on social networks

Although legitimate job offers sometimes appear on social networks, you should be careful because these offers are sometimes scams. Be careful about the information you provide.

Actual job postings provide details (not vague descriptions) about the position and its requirements, and often give general salary information. Indeed (a legit job site) warns that if a job posting requires payment, offers an extremely high salary, promises you’ll get rich quick, gives a vague job description, or has no contact, this is not an actual offer.

Stimulus check scams

Even though stimulus checks have been mailed out, some people haven’t received the check they expected or may think another one is coming. Stimulus check fraud has brought in huge sums of money for scammers.

If you think you have been overlooked and want to investigate, go directly to IRS website to learn more about your refund. Again, don’t open emails or answer phone calls about stimulus checks – they’re not from the government.

If you didn’t receive your last stimulus check or it was stolen from you after you received it, the IRS can make a payment record. Once you have requested it, and if the check has been cashed, the IRS will send you a claim package which will include a copy of the canceled check. You will fill out the information, return the package, and the IRS will review it. If your claim is verified, a new check will not be issued, but they can credit your account with the amount originally issued by replenishing the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit.

cyber fraud
Be vigilant if a stranger asks for your contact information during a phone call or email. (vickygharat/Pixabay)

What to do if you’ve been scammed

If you have sent in your tax forms, but someone has already filed taxes on your behalf, the IRS will send you a Letter 5071C (or a letter 5747C, a letter 6331C or a letter 5447C). The letter will inform you that the tax forms with your Social Security number have already been filed, or that the IRS needs more information to process your return. Instructions will be given in the letter telling you how to verify your identity so that you can receive your tax refund.

Other types of scams to watch out for

The IRS lists several other types of scams on its website. From bogus charities to overcharging tax preparers, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with these scams, too. You could become a victim if you don’t know how to identify them. You can report questionable tax documents on the IRS website as well.

The Epoch Times Copyright © 2022 The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors. They are intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed or construed as a recommendation or solicitation. The Epoch Times does not provide investment, tax, legal, financial planning, estate planning, or other personal finance advice. Epoch Times assumes no responsibility for the accuracy or timeliness of the information provided.

About Charles D. Goolsby

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