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Beware Tax-Time Fraud and New Scams

This time of year, there are many tax-related scams to watch out for. According to the Federal Trade Commission, tax-related identity theft is the most common form of identity theft reported in the U.S. As criminals continue to use stolen identities (Social Security numbers and personal data) to fraudulently obtain tax refunds in advance of the proper recipients, the IRS has greatly increased its scrutiny of refunds to identify signs of theft. Therefore, criminals have changed tactics.

The IRS recently alerted taxpayers to a new, quickly growing scam. This year, criminals are depositing illegally obtained refunds in the bank accounts of unsuspecting individuals. By doing so, they avoid automated fraud detection systems. To collect the money, they telephone the recipient, posing as a fraud investigator or law enforcement, and demand immediate repayment lest the victim be subject to criminal penalties. The caller sounds very authentic and, under threats and intimidation, many victims hand over the “reimbursement.” The IRS has published an alert on this new scam, including the safe way to properly return an erroneous refund.

Protect yourself and recognize the signs of fraud. Be wary of any telephone or email messages claiming to be from the IRS, especially those demanding immediate payment, or requesting your personal information, including your Social Security number or username and password for e-filing. The IRS will never send an email requesting that you download, upload, or access your tax transcripts. Furthermore, the IRS doesn't initiate contact with taxpayers through email, text messages, or social media channels to request personal or financial information.

For more detailed information and helpful tips, visit these sites: Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts
National Cyber Security Alliance: Stay Safe Online During Tax Time
Identity Theft Resource Center: Tax Identity Theft

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