There was a time when the only tax time jitter you had was getting things done in time and coughing up your dough. Now, the problems are compounded digitally.
Between now and April 15, approximately 155 million people are filing tax form, making identity theft a larger concern, if only by the numbers. Add to the recipe the fact that more and more people are filing electronically. According to comScore, one in seven people in the U.S., ), visited online tax sites in January. While no one can say with any certainty that tax time increases the number of identities compromised, it certainly increases the possibilities.
I spoke via email with Robert Siciliano, online security evangelist for McAfee, who cited these scams and remedies.
Phishing scams. An unsolicited email or fake websites that poses as a legitimate site. It will often appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). Often they tell you that they’re missing some key pieces of information in order to process your files.
What to Do? The IRS generally contacts people by mail and will not email or text consumers, so take care not to respond to emails or messages from the IRS. Just delete them. If the emailers get especially adamant about needing your information like your social security number, it’s a good tip off that they’re not the IRS.
IRS scams. Beware of scammers posing as IRS agents via phone or email. They are often prepared with a few personal details that were likely gleaned from public records. They may offer you a tax refund, pressuring you to comply with their request. It gives the “we’re the IRS and we’re here to help” a new level of terror.
What do Do? Refuse to provide information. Tell them to contact you via mail. In January, the IRS announced the results of a massive, national sweep cracking down on suspected identity theft perpetrators as part of a stepped-up effort against refund fraud and identity theft. Working with the Justice Department’s Tax Division and local U.S. Attorneys’ offices, the nationwide effort targeted 105 people in 23 states.
Rogue tax preparers. Sometimes the scam is physical according to the Citizens Voice. A group actually comes into town and rents and office space. The scammers prepare a false tax return with a large refund that goes to the scam artists, not the people.
What do Do: The takeaway here is to use a reputable firm that‘s been in your neighborhood for awhile and doesn’t make insane promises. Siciliano cautions against questionable return preparers who will skim off your refunds, charge inflated fees and make false promises. Anyone can hang out a shingle and claim to be a credible accountant but that shouldn’t be enough to persuade you to disclose all your financial records.
Checking licenses is always smart, he says. Each state has a division specifically for licensing. The account should be able to provide a website address and license number. Any legitimate CPA will have no problem providing this information. Avoid rogue tax preparers by finding them in reputable places (via referrals, for example) versus places like Craigslist. Don’t respond to any who have emailed you directly, and definitely don’t use one that opens shop from February to April.
Other Tips:Have your refund directly deposited into a bank account, so you don’t have to worry about a paper check being stolen from your mailbox. It will also get you your money faster: within 10 days instead of six to eight weeks, he said. You can track your return on the IRS website.
Read the IRS Dirty Dozen list of the most common tax scams. http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=254383,00.html . Also included on the list are offshore money, claiming zero wages, inflated income and others. For the full list visit the IRS Dirty Dozen.
Keep Your Anti Virus and Anti Phishing Software up to date. If your PC is riddled with malicious software, you risk having their identity stolen and taxes filed by a hacker. While McAfee is one of these, Norton AntiVirus, Kapsersky, AVG, Trend Micro are all solid brands that can keep you out of trouble during tax season. To read more about phishing.
© Copyright 2013 Silvers Summit | Webmaster: Chona Dizon-Freedman