Every year around this time the IRS releases its ‘Dirty Dozen’ scams list. The timing is not a mistake, as the tax filing season provides more opportunities for people to try to take advantage of others. So in that spirit, here is a renewed warning for things to look out for.
The largest of these are phishing schemes. This does not only happen around tax time, so make it a general rule to not follow web links from suspicious emails and not to enter personal information onto websites before confirming they are legitimate. In addition, this is starting to occur more often over social media. So know that links encountered there could also be dangerous. Installing security software on your computer can help alert you and steer you away from malicious sites and block malware attempts. Many internet service providers offer this as part of your plan, but even if they don’t it is relatively inexpensive, especially considering the potential costs.
At this time of year, these scams will increasingly use the name of the IRS to frighten people and direct them to places they shouldn’t go and to do things they shouldn’t do. So let this be a reminder that if you aren’t aware of any issue you have with the IRS, the first time you hear from them is not going to be over the computer.
The initial contact from the agency almost always comes via regular postal mail. So let that also make you wary of phone scams from those who say they’re from the IRS. The awareness of these scams is pretty strong, as it seems most everyone has received one of these fake calls, but that has not stopped them from occurring. The fright that they can cause may feel a little larger this time of year, but remain vigilant. Even if you think a call is legitimate, it is okay to take the time to check its credentials before sharing personal information or making payments.
The IRS is also concerned about those trying out scams on their actual tax filing, too. Some of these are easy to understand, like people not reporting income or claiming expenses and deductions for which they do not quality. There are also scams out there where people try to inflate income. Without getting into the mathematical minutiae of this, having a bit more income could help someone’s tax picture by maximizing some tax credits.
Overall, if someone is promising a bigger refund, but there are machinations involve that feel shady, they probably are shady. As always, I think that the best way to handle a tax return is with honesty. Sure, the final numbers may not always be what you would like, but there is value in peace of mind, too. Even if you owe more money than you think you can afford, handling that and figuring out how and when you can pay it (even if it turns out to not be immediate) is better than doing something that could come with greater consequences later.
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