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Welcome to the start of the 2013 Tax Fraud/Scheme Season

Created: 15 Jan 2013 • Updated: 21 Jan 2013 • 3 comments
Jeannie Warner's picture
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We're looking at a bumper crop of online frauds, cons, ID thefts, and check stealing this year. Some of them can steal your returns, others cost you your life savings or money you have not even begun to earn. As your W-2s come in, here are some simple pointers to remember about filing and online opportunities as well as methods for avoiding theft of multiple kinds.

  1. First and most important - the IRS will never email you. Ever. If you get an email from the IRS or EFTPS (Electronic Federal Tax Payment System), forward it to phishing@irs.gov and do not respond!
  1. Beware fake Tax preparation companies.  Never enter information online unless you see HTTPS: or a green bar in the URL, and look for the Preparer Tax identification Number (PTIN) on your return. You should always receive a copy of your tax return, and a reputable tax service should never do your taxes for a percentage of the refund.
  1. Phishing requests via email are everywhere. If anyone requests an unusual amount of personal and/or financial information, such as name, SSN, bank or credit card account numbers or security-related information, such as mother’s maiden name, either in the e-mail itself or on another site to which a link in the e-mail sends you to, be suspicious. Warning: Email threats about consequences for failing to respond or blocking access to your funds are always frauds.
  1. Look for really long address links contained in the e-mail message or one that does not start with the actual IRS Web site address (http://www.irs.gov). The actual link’s address, or url, is revealed by moving the mouse over the link included in the text of the e-mail. The IRS will also never call you on the telephone.
  1. Beware .pdf files emailed to you from anyone that claims to represent or communicate changes in tax law. Just go to www.irs.gov to research changes, or talk to your real life accountant or tax preparer.
  1. Your postal mail is not the safe way to receive checks from the IRS. Be aware that there are people that cruise the street in neighborhoods with unlocked mailboxes at tax time to steal tax return envelopes. Electronic depositing and filing can be safer, but don't get your return on a debit card.  Go with direct deposit whenever you can.
  1. Protect your computer. If you plan to file your taxes online, be sure you have current anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall protection installed. TurboTax, H&R Block and other reputable tax services always use encrypted transmission. Keep in mind that the most lucrative tax return schemes are based on ID Theft. Make sure you protect your side of the filing!

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Brook R. Chelmo's picture

Point #2 is the best.

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KW DBS's picture

Great write-up Jeannie; I wish the entire country would read it. Schemes capitalizing on tax season are particularly effective due to the nature of who is involved. Nobody wants to be on the government's bad side so there is naturally extra motivation to cooperate, which only compounds the financial damage done by these schemes.

#5 is particularly vile as it doesn't even require information to be input if the payload is a compromised .pdf that auto-installs malware.

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stevenbk's picture

Thank you for the recap, I've realized that number 7) is becoming a bigger liability as some people use their mobile device to file their taxes online, sometimes even using public hotspots (wifi access) to do so. These guidelines should be communicated officially by the state to reduce the costs of fraud.

Steven F.
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