It’s that time again, when we all dread finding out if we owe money or not. And cybercriminals are banking on it with a wide range of scams that all impersonate the IRS.
You’d think, by now, people would be savvy to emails and phone calls purporting to be from the IRS saying “you owe money!” or “call us immediately!”. The IRS has posted details about phishing attacks that impersonate them for years (here’s one from 2014 that reads like it’s a relatively new scam). And yet, individuals continue to fall for these scams – mostly due to their ignorance around how the IRS contacts you.
The IRS has taken steps to not just let you know what to expect should they reach out, but they even go as far as to spell out for you the types of tax scams you should be mindful of.
Most of the current scams revolve around simple premises that are designed to both get your attention and strike a little fear into you. According to Nerdwallet, some of these premises sound like the following:
- “We'll cancel your Social Security number”
- “This is the Bureau of Tax Enforcement, and we're putting a lien or levy on your assets”
- “If you don’t call us back, you’ll be arrested”
These scams are usually intent on stealing personal data or payment details. So, there are a few things you can do to ensure you’re protected:
- Pay attention to how they contact you – the IRS doesn’t call, text, email, leave voicemails, or reach out to you via social media. They send you a letter in the mail. That’s it.
- They don’t ask for payment over the phone – Not credit cards, and most certainly not gift cards!
- They can’t arrest you, etc. – There is a taxpayer’s bill of rights, an appeal process, etc. Jumping right to arresting you is downright foolishness.
Those organizations putting their users through continual Security Awareness Training are already prepared for IRS-themed and other types of scams, as they are taught to maintain a state of vigilance whenever any unsolicited communication – whether via email, phone, etc. – and to scrutinize the message, it’s sender, and the call to action, all to determine whether it’s a scam or not.