Keeping yourself safe from potential identity theft and watching out for scams remains important even removed from tax season. The IRS knows this and is taking steps to keep your information safe.
Last week, the agency announced that it would stop faxing tax transcripts this month. It also plans to stop third-party mailing of tax returns and transcripts in July. The IRS has found that criminals can impersonate taxpayers or authorized third parties to get those transcripts and use them to file fraudulent returns. This doesn’t mean that you can never get a legitimate transcript if you need one. In fact, it is still easy for a taxpayer to do it themselves online by verifying their identity.
At the same time, the IRS is also raising the alarm on a couple of new scams aiming to get your personal information. Two of biggest are claiming that your social security number is going to be suspended or canceled and demands from a Bureau of Tax Enforcement.
We will take on the SSN one first. Let this be the most giant red flag you can ever encounter when it comes to scams. If someone wants your social security number, and you aren’t 100% sure who they are and that they should have it, don’t give them any information.
These demands are often coming through frightening robocall voicemails. They talk of potential punishments that sound awful, and they would be if they were true. But if these calls come out of nowhere and speak vaguely of things that you cannot connect to legitimate information that is because they are not real.
Another trick that I like to do with these calls is do a Google search of the number these calls come from. A large percentage of the time this will return a list of people at least searching for the number if not labeling it as a scam. Either way, that should make you feel more confident that you can ignore it.
As for the Bureau of Tax Enforcement, it sounds real legitimate, doesn’t it? Well, it doesn’t actually exist. When you get a letter in the mail, though, that threatens a tax lien or levy because of delinquent taxes, paying money to the Bureau of Tax Enforcement sounds like a valid way to keep that from happening.
This one feels extra dangerous because it bypasses some of the warnings that are often put out for how to avoid schemes. One is that the first contact from the IRS will come through the mail and not via phone, email, or social media. Well, they bypassed that. It also seems to be seeking a legitimate way of payment. You’re sending a check to a seemingly legit organization and not wiring money, buying odd gift cards, or using any other unorthodox form of odd payment. The money is also not demanded quickly.
This shows how scammers are always trying to stay a few steps ahead of knowledge getting out to the public. They are not simply going to be defeated in one arena and then give up. So be sure you also stay ready to take in new information and remain diligent when something doesn’t feel quite right.
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