Woo-hoo, you survived tax season! But you’re not out of the woods just yet. Scammers are still on the prowl even after the tax season has finished, so you need to stay vigilant. Since post-tax season is when most people are expecting to hear from the IRS, scammers know that it’s a great opportunity to take your hard-earned money. These criminals will impersonate the IRS or even charitable organizations to get what they want. Fortunately, if you know what to expect and use the right software, you can easily avoid the most common post-tax season scams.
The most common post-tax season scam is a phone call apparently from the IRS demanding payment. These fraudulent calls vary in their technique: some are very persuasive telling you that you have the ability to appeal (after you pay, of course) while others are more threatening with scare tactics of large fines and prison time. To make the whole scam even more convincing, fraudsters will spoof caller ID to make it seem like the phone call really is coming from the IRS. Often these kinds of scams target elderly people who might be more susceptible.
But there’s one key thing you have to know to avoid this kind of scam: the IRS never calls demanding immediate payment. The IRS also doesn’t use threats about legal action or police involvement – not unless you’ve been on the run for years. So, if you get any aggressive phone calls from scammers claiming to be the IRS, you can happily slam the phone down.
Phishing emails have long been a favorite method for cybercriminals. Scammers can easily create emails that look as if they were sent by the IRS, with all the same language, logos, and images. This is designed to lure taxpayers into giving out personal information by getting them to click on a fake link. These IRS emails may tell you about your refunds or filing status and when you click on the link you’ll be taken to a fake page where unsuspecting victims will give away their personal details. However, the IRS doesn’t use email to discuss debts or refunds with taxpayers, so if you do receive an email claiming to be from the IRS be very wary.
The good news is that since phishing is such a common technique by scammers there are a lot of tips to avoid getting fooled. Using high-quality internet security that is designed to stop phishing attacks is a great idea, whether through a secure email service, like eM Client, or by using antivirus software, such as AVG Antivirus.
Even after tax season is over, you can’t let your guard down when it comes to your personal information. Identity thieves are always on the prowl, and tax fraud is one of the most common types of identity theft. If you unwittingly give out your personal details including your Social Security number, criminals can file an early tax return in your name and then take the refund for themselves.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to prevent identity theft, including using dedicated identity theft software, like LifeLock. You also need to ensure your personal information is secure and the best way to do that is by using a password manager to keep all your online accounts safe. Keeper is a great example of what a password manager can do as it securely stores your passwords in an encrypted vault and searches the dark web for data breaches. Also, don’t forget the IRS’s advice when it comes to your Social Security number: if in doubt, don’t give it out.
Scammers will take advantage of anything to get their hands on your money, including setting up fake charities. Often scammers take advantage of big world events that happen throughout the year to create fictional charities that prey on people’s generosity. These fake charities can have polished, professional-looking websites or take the identity of an existing organization, making them difficult to spot. The charity may contact you by phone, text, email, or even visit you in-person to get your donation, all while assuring you that it’s tax deductible. They may also use this as a way to get some of your personal information that they can then use to steal your identity in the future.
If you hear from a fake charity, it can sound quite convincing, but a legitimate charity will give you their Employer Identification Number on request to use as verification. It’s also worth checking the IRS website, as all registered charities can be found there.