Every year you can count on one thing happening that probably makes you sigh. It may make you angry, anxious, or frustrated, but the one emotion that rarely makes an appearance for tax time is happiness. And to add to all these emotions, the IRS and state tax agencies are warning people of phishing email scams making an appearance this year.
There are many tips to keep in mind when working on those taxes. The most important one is to file early… as early as you possibly can. This is particularly significant if your social security number was stolen in any data breach, ever. And with nearly half the population of the United States falling into that group with just one breach, Equifax, it’s reasonable to assume that yours was included.
The problem is that social security numbers are with us for life. Most of us get one when we’re born and it never changes. They are used for a multitude of things like getting a driver’s license in some states, getting electricity turned on in some cases, getting a loan, and of course for filing taxes. As opposed to payment card numbers that can be changed relatively easily, social security numbers can’t be. So, once it’s stolen, hackers in the know can use it to try to file your income tax return on your behalf. No, that’s not them just being nice. Instead, your refund will go to them rather than you. And if you don’t expect a refund, they will likely lie on your returns and get one anyway. Fixing these issues with the IRS is not trivial. So, the earlier you file your own taxes, the less likely someone else will get to it first.
Also, watch out for income tax related phishing scams. They are in abundance every year. They often pretend to come from the IRS. Sometimes they make threats and insist you send a payment. Sometimes, you might get a phone call from someone saying they are from the IRS and you owe money. To escape large fines and/or jail time, they need your payment card number. The emails often have subjects such as “IRS Taxpayer Notice,” “IRS Important Notice,” or some variation of these.
The IRS will not initiate contact with you via email or the telephone. Should they need to get in touch, they will send you a paper letter using the U.S. Postal Service. If you have any doubt, call the IRS using a phone number you can fairly easily find on their website for your particular issue.
Take some time to read email messages, regardless of whom the sender may be. If there are typos—even very minor ones—be suspicious. Often, they have poor grammar, don’t properly use the language, leave out little words here and there, etc. Pay attention to these and consider the message phishing if they exist.
In addition, if you’re not expecting a link or attachment just don’t open it. This goes whether it appears to have come from a stranger, a vendor or colleague, or your mom.
While the numbers decreased in 2018, more than 2,000 tax-related scams were reported in 2017. But, that’s plenty to perk up our ears. At the current time, the IRS does not have a method to verify that returns are being sent from the legitimate taxpayer. So be on the lookout and remember to file those returns early!
Personal information is more readily available today than ever before, and if someone gets a hold of yours, it could wreak havoc on your financial stability and credit score. That’s why Family Trust offers Identity Theft Protection for members. To enroll call 1-800-367-4100 or visit a branch.