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Tax scams in 2020: How to protect yourself from 5 common swindles


July. 07, 2020

Here's a shortlist of some of the most popular scams making the rounds -- and how to keep both your identity and tax return safe and secure.
1. The IRS impersonation phone call
If someone claiming to work for the IRS calls you, the IRS says you should write down the number you received the call from, the name of the caller and then hang up. You can then call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040 or visit irs.gov/balancedue to view your account.
Report a scam phone call with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration by calling 1-800-366-4484, or at tigta.gov . You can also call the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP or visit ftc.gov/complaint .
2. The surprise refund bait-and-switch
How it works: In the words of the IRS, this is a "new twist on an old scam." After criminals have secured your sensitive personal information, such as social security numbers and tax forms, they can easily file a fraudulent return on your behalf.
Once the funds hit your bank account, the scammers, impersonating someone from the IRS or a collection agent, will contact you to demand the return of the ill-gotten money -- either by depositing into an account or sending it to an address.
How to protect yourself: Be on the alert for an unexpected tax bill, refund or messages from the IRS or your tax preparer about multiple returns filed using your social security number. If you get an erroneous refund, don't go out and make a major purchase -- the IRS will want its money back.
If you suspect you're a victim, file a complaint with the FTC . Request that the major credit bureaus put a "fraud alert" on your record, and contact the IRS at 1-800-908-4490.
3. Cancel or suspend your Social Security number
How to protect yourself: If someone calls and threatens to cancel or suspend your social security number, hang up immediately. If they call back, don't answer. Write down the number and then report the call on this site , and send an email with the subject of "IRS Phone Scam" to phishing@irs.gov and include the phone number, as well as any other details that are relevant, in the body of the email.
If you do owe taxes, you can call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to discuss your payment options. Your Social Security number will not be canceled or suspended.
4. Fake texts, emails or social media messages
One particularly bold gambit involves scammers using the IRS name and logo to warn taxpayers about the very scam they're perpetrating, before soliciting sensitive personal information. Note that attackers are increasingly targeting tax professionals in addition to taxpayers.
How to protect yourself: Be wary about any communications you receive over email, text message or social media purporting to be the IRS, a tax professional or any other financial organization. Again, the real IRS will never initiate contact to request personal or financial information.
If you do receive such a message, the IRS asks that you forward it to phishing@irs.gov. Do not reply to the original message.
Scammers are constantly trying new things
The biggest takeaway here is this: If the IRS needs something from you, you'll receive a letter in the mail. You won't get an email, phone call or text message. Even still, letters can be faked, so it's best to use only official IRS websites and phone numbers .
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