Ask Kim: Emails from the IRS – and Other Signs of a Tax Scam
Q: I received an email claiming to be from the IRS and asking for my bank account information to deposit my refund. I’m almost positive it’s a scam. How can I find out for sure, and how can I report it if it is fraudulent?
A: It’s a scam – and one that’s common around tax season. The IRS doesn’t initiate contact by phone or email.
Most people know to be suspicious of calls and emails claiming to be from the IRS and asking for your money or personal information. But the crooks are getting smarter and introducing a new level of tax-related schemes, which are especially prevalent this time of year as people begin to file their tax returns.
And people are even more susceptible to scams this year because of confusion about the new tax law. In the most common tax scams, IRS impostors claim that you owe money and threaten lawsuits or arrest if you don’t pay immediately by credit card or by wiring the money or sending a prepaid debit card or gift card. They have even started to spoof caller IDs to make it look like the call is from Washington, D.C., the U.S. Treasury or your state or local department of revenue.
Be aware, if you owe money, you’ll receive a notice from the IRS in the mail first. And the agency does not demand that you pay taxes without a chance to question or appeal the amount it says you owe.
As you discovered, scam artists are also sending emails that look like official IRS correspondence asking for your bank account information to directly deposit your refund. Some emails include a link to a website that looks legitimate but is just a way to gather your information and steal your money or identity. Con artists also send emails claiming to be from your tax software company or tax professional, asking for information related to your refund or confirming personal information. The email may ask you to update your “IRS e-file information immediately” to prevent a delay of your refund. The IRS will not send an email asking for personal or financial information.
You can report these phishing scams at email@example.com. If you think there’s a chance that the correspondence may be legitimate, don’t click on any links or respond. Instead, look up the phone number of your tax preparer or tax software company separately and call to check.
Kimberly Lankford is a contributing editor to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. Send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. And for more on this and similar money topics, visit Kiplinger.com.
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