INDIANAPOLIS— The Federal Trade Commission has a new warning out Monday to avoid new tax-related scams.
In one scam, identity thieves file a fake tax return and have the refund deposited into your bank account.
“The thieves then contact you, often by phone, and — posing as the IRS or debt collectors for the IRS — demand you return the money to the IRS,” said Colleen Tressler, consumer education specialist with the FTC. “But following the thieves’ instructions actually sends the money to them.”
In another tax scam, after you get the fake refund, you get an automated call, allegedly from the IRS, threatening you with criminal fraud charges.
“The caller gives you a case number and a telephone number to call to return the refund,” said Tressler. “Don’t take the bait. If you or someone you know gets an unexpected tax refund, follow the guidelines outlined by the IRS for how to return the funds to the agency.”
In yet another tax scam, the scammers use imposter tax preparation sites to steal your personal information.
The criminals fool you by making websites that look real, but they’re set up collect personal information that can be used to commit fraud, including identity theft.
The FTC has these tips to fight tax identity theft:
- File your tax return early in the tax season, if you can.
- Use a secure internet connection if you file electronically, or mail your tax return directly from the post office.
- When using an online tax preparation service, look for the tax preparer identification number. The IRS requires all paid tax preparers to have one before filing any returns.
- To determine if a website is encrypted, look for https at the start of the web address (the “s” is for secure). Some websites use encryption only on the sign-in page, but if any part of your session isn’t encrypted, your entire account could be vulnerable. Look for https on every page you visit, not just when you sign in.
- Ask tax preparers about their data security policies, and how they protect your information.
- Respond to all mail from the IRS as soon as possible.
- If tax identity theft happens to you, visit IdentityTheft.gov to report it to the FTC, file an Identity Theft Affidavit with the IRS electronically, and get a personal recovery plan.
If you spot a scam, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
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