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Avoid Tax Season Scams

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Published Feb. 27, 2017

Every tax season, scammers target taxpayers on the internet, by email and over the phone to trick them into sending money or divulging financial information.

Below are some tips from Meriwest Compliance Officer Victoria Casey on what to look out for and what to do in the event you are targeted.

What to look out for:

Requests for fake tax payments. Scammers use automated messages or emails to demand quick payment from taxpayers by threatening legal action. However, the IRS will never call or email to demand immediate payment, nor would the agency request a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card or wire transfer, as these scams do.

Requests for "federal student tax" payments. There is no such tax, but fraudsters hound students and parents to pay this fictitious tax. The IRS has reported that some aggressive scammers threaten to report students to the police if they don't pay. Call their bluff, because real IRS agents never threaten to immediately contact local law enforcement for not paying taxes.

"Verification" of tax return information. Be wary of calls or emails asking to “verify” your information. Sometimes all scammers really want are critical details, such as Social Security numbers and bank account information, to steal your identity for a big payoff.

Pretending to be a tax preparer. Official-looking emails are designed to fool taxpayers into thinking they're communicating with the IRS, tax preparers or tax software companies. Known as phishing, these emails and text messages are used by scammers to seek information that will help them file a false refund in your name.

What you can do:

Know how the IRS initiates contact. The IRS will never call or email to demand immediate payment, nor will they call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill. In addition, the IRS does not threaten taxpayers with lawsuits, imprisonment or other enforcement action.

Report messages and phone calls. Suspicious tax-related emails can be forwarded to phishing@irs.gov. Suspicious phone calls can be reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at (800) 366-4484 and/or the Federal Trade Commission by filing an online complaint here.

Verify issues with the IRS or your state tax authority. The IRS will never demand that you pay taxes without providing the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed. So, question out-of-the-blue communications about alleged tax balances. If you owe back taxes, or think you might, call your tax professional, the IRS at (800) 829-1040, or the state tax department directly. A new online tool at IRS.gov also lets you look up unpaid taxes, penalties and interest, but keep in mind that enrollment in IRS.gov is required.

Never pay over the phone or by email. Even if you owe, the IRS will never ask for credit, debit, prepaid card or bank information via phone, email, text or social media.

Being able to recognize these telltale signs of a phishing or tax scam could save you from becoming a victim.

Want more Meriwest security tips and information? Visit our website or stop by in person at any branch location today.

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