Consumer Crackdown: BBB says tax time brings out scammers
Experts urge caution with online exchanges
InvestigateTV - It’s not often you get an email from the IRS, but when Steven Fay opened his inbox and saw an “IRS office” message offering a $782 grant, he said it made him suspicious.
“Words like data, not information, a grant, because the IRS doesn’t deal with grants, that’s a federal government issue,” Fay said.
The Iowa resident said the email also stated the grant was related to the “ongoing Covid-19 virus disaster.” He said at that point, he knew it was a scam.
“There was just a lot of words in there that really triggered me to not click on the link that they were asking me to complete data with,” Fay said.
Fay said he didn’t fall for it because of all the red flags. According to the Better Business Bureau, his instinct was right.
Sandra Guile of the BBB’s national office said tax season is a popular time of year for scammers looking to target consumers through email, phone, or text message.
“There are people out there that would actually love to get their hands on your personal identifiable information,” Guile said.
She said scammers pressure victims to give up their personal information by offering to file taxes for them. She said it often starts with a phone call where the caller tries to take advantage of the potential victim’s tax history.
“Maybe you have tax penalties, outstanding from the previous year and they, just need some pieces of information to verify your identification. The second way may be by a text message with another threatening piece of information,” Guile said.
Guile said fraudsters also attempt to reach victims through email phishing.
“Most people get it in their email box, and they say, oh gee, that’s from the IRS, I should probably respond to that,” Guile said. “But they’re not paying attention in which the form that email is in.”
Guile said the scammers could use similar tactics if you’re late with a tax return. To fight that, she recommends filing sooner rather than later. One tool the IRS offers to fight fraud is a specialized identity protection PIN.
Experts said the best way to avoid tax scams is to get that IP PIN number before filing a return, deal with trustworthy tax preparers and make sure you’re on a real IRS website.
If you come across a tax scam, report it to the BBB’s Scamtracker. If you’re a victim of tax identity theft, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.
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