Tax Identity Theft and Refund Fraud

Tiffany M. Faust |
Posted on Feb 01, 2017

Scammers Target Tax Season

With tax season in full swing, it is important to recognize that Tax Identify Theft has been the most common form of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission for the past five years. Tax Identity Theft happens when someone files a phony tax return using your Social Security Number (SSN) in order to receive the tax refund from the Internal Revenue Service. It can also happen when someone uses your SSN to get a job, or when someone claims your child as a dependent on his or her tax return.

In recent years, thousands of individuals have lost their personal information to tax scams and fake IRS communications. Tax season email, telephone and text message scams were up 400% in 2016. Telephone scammers have become more aggressive, even threatening to arrest, deport, or suspend the driver’s license of victims.

Scam emails may claim to be about refunds, filing status, and filing issues, or may state you must verify your personal information to complete your return. Emails with links often take you to sites that appear legitimate and trick you into providing your SSN or other personal information. These sites also often carry malware, which can infect your computer and allow criminals ongoing access to track your keystrokes to obtain additional personal information.

Additionally, employers need to remain vigilant since email scammers may purport to be company officers and send phishing emails to payroll and human resources personnel requesting personal information on employees. It is important for businesses to access the IRS website regularly to review the most current phishing scams.

How Do You Stop These Scammers?

Remember, the IRS DOES NOT:

  • initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages, or social media to request personal or financial information;
  • demand immediate payment by debit/credit card, reloadable cards, direct debit, or wire transfer; or,
  • threaten taxpayers with lawsuits, deportation, imprisonment, or other enforcement action.

What Do You Do If You Receive A Suspicious IRS-Related Communication?

IF THEN
You receive a suspicious email claiming to be from the IRS
  • Don’t reply, open any attachments or click on any links.
  • Forward the email to phishing@irs.gov.
  • Delete the email from your mailbox.
You receive a suspicious phone call claiming to be from the IRS
  • Don’t share personal or financial account information with the caller.
  • Don’t take any actions they claim you need to take.
  • Record the caller’s name, badge number, call back number, and/or caller ID number, if available.
  • Hang up and call 1-800-366-4484 to determine if the caller is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you.
You receive a suspicious text message claiming to be from the IRS
  • Don’t reply, open any attachments, or click on any links.
  • Forward the text to 202-552-1226.
  • If possible, in a separate text, forward the message sender’s phone number to 202-552-1226.
  • Delete the text from your messages.
You receive a suspicious letter, notice or form via paper mailing or fax claiming to be from the IRS
  • Visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov and search for the letter, notice or form number or call 1-800-829-1040 to determine if it is legitimate. If the letter, notice or form is even slightly different than the one online, call 1-800-829-1040.
You discover a website claiming to be the IRS, but you suspect it's not legitimate
  • Email the URL of the suspicious site to phishing@irs.gov with the subject line “Suspicious Website”

Is There Anything Being Done to Combat the Tax Identity Theft Problem?

The good news is the number of individuals who filed affidavits reporting they were victims of Tax Identity Theft during the first nine months of 2016 was 237,750, a 50% reduction compared to the same time period in 2015. Thanks to new stringent IRS and industry partner enhanced security measures, 787,000 fraudulent tax returns totaling more than $4 million were blocked.

For more information on Tax Identity Theft scams and identity theft recovery, visit https://www.irs.gov/uac/tax-scams-consumer-alerts or https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/tips/ST05-019 .

Tiffany M. Faust
Vice President/Information Security Officer for ACNB Bank