Thieves looking to file a fraudulent refund claim by using a taxpayer's information may try to steal that information by such ruses as posing as an IRS representative, the Service said in its ongoing "Dirty Dozen" series.
The release Wednesday provided the seventh item on this year's list, suspicious communications (News Release IR-2022-121). It follows three other recent releases highlighting unethical tax preparers and advisers, thefts of economic impact payments and other tax benefits, and certain tax-evasion schemes.
Taxpayers — and their tax professionals — should protect Social Security numbers and other personal information from being stolen. Criminals can quickly use a number to file a fake tax return, hoping that it has not already been used for that tax year on another return. The taxpayer to whom the number belongs may not know about the theft until he or she attempts to file a legitimate return that is rejected, the IRS said.
The Service outlined some ways fraudsters may attempt to gain personal identifying and financial information.
Text message scams
Bogus texts may purport to come from the IRS and concern economic impact payments or other COVID-19 tax relief, the IRS said. Links in the text may then direct victims to sites where they are asked to enter their information. The IRS said, as it has regularly, that it does not contact taxpayers by text message to discuss personal tax issues such as tax bills or refunds, either by SMS protocol or by messaging on social media platforms. It does send a text message as a second factor to authenticate users' identity when they access online self-help tools, but only after the user has entered valid login information on the IRS's website.
Taxpayers receiving an unexpected fraudulent text that masquerades as being from the IRS should take a screenshot of it (without clicking on any links) and send it in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the date and time (including time zone) received and phone number on which it was received, the IRS suggested.
The IRS initiates contact with taxpayers by postal mail in most instances. If taxpayers receive a "phishing" email that purports to be from the IRS or a related program, they may report it by forwarding it (without opening any links or attachments) to email@example.com.
The IRS reminded taxpayers that criminals can "spoof" a caller ID to make phone calls appear to be from the IRS. Such bogus calls may also impersonate an IRS agent and threaten arrest, deportation, or license revocation if the taxpayer does not immediately make a payment. The IRS suggests taxpayers receiving such calls hang up immediately. The Service reminded taxpayers that it initiates collection actions only via postal mail and that legitimate tax payment requests are payable only to the U.S. Treasury.
— To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Paul Bonner at Paul.Bonner@aicpa-cima.com.