Taxing Times: Steer Clear of the New IRS Scams

Learn about the tricksters’ latest IRS scams and pick up quick tips on how to avoid them: Internet ScamBusters™ #270

We’d like to extend a hearty welcome to Keith, our newest
Scambuster. Keith helped us create this issue of ScamBusters
— we think you’ll agree he did a great job!

Today’s issue is about brand new IRS scams. Tax season always
brings out scammers in full force who use IRS scams to lure
unsuspecting victims. This year, the government’s plan to make
additional refunds to boost the economy gives the IRS scam
merchants an extra edge. But understanding how the IRS operates
can steer you clear of them.

We’ll explain this new IRS scam — plus four other currently
hot IRS scams — and show you how you can avoid them.

And as always, we recommend that you check out the most popular
articles from our other sites during the past week:

Can Paying Your Credit Cards In Full Each Month Hurt Your Credit?
Find out if href="http://www.creditcardtipsetc.com/credit_cards_are_playing_dirty_again.html"
target="_blank">paying your credit card in full can lead to
your account being canceled.

Natural Disasters Can Be Identity Theft Nightmares: The bad weather
may leave but the href="http://www.identitytheftfixes.com/natural_disasters_can_be_identity_theft_nightmares.html"
target="_blank">threat of identity theft lingers on after the
storm.

What You Need to Know About Those “Paid to Shop” Websites: Tips on href="http://www.consumersavvytips.org/can_you_really_get_paid_to_shop.html"
target="_blank">“get paid to shop” advertisements and if they’re
really worth it.

Buying a Puppy — Breeders vs. Pet Shops vs. Animal Shelters: This
eye-opening look at the world of href="http://www.consumertipsreports.org/buying_a_puppy_breeders_vs_pet_shops_vs_animal_shelters.html"
target="_blank">pet stores vs. breeders vs. animal shelters will
surprise you.

On to today’s main topic…


Taxing Times: Steer Clear of the New IRS Scams


It didn’t take long for criminals to come up with new IRS scams to cash in on the government’s $170 billion stimulus package with tax refunds to boost the economy.

Even before Congress signed off on the proposal, tax scammers
were phoning people, asking for their bank details so the IRS
could supposedly deposit refunds directly into their accounts.

They bait their victims by suggesting this will mean a faster
than expected refund, and they sometimes warn that if you don’t
give the information immediately, you could lose your refund.

This IRS scam enables con artists to get bank account and
Social Security numbers, as well as credit and debit card
details that they then use for identity theft.

In fact, as we’ve said before, the Internal Revenue Service
never, repeat never, asks for taxpayers’ personal information
over the phone — or in emails. That’s not how it does
business.

Even before this scam began, police were warning about the rash
of IRS scams that appear at this time of year, mostly aimed at
identity theft, taking control of PCs or simply duping people
out of cash.

Most of today’s tax scams are variations on the themes we’ve
been seeing over the past few years. You can catch up on some
of these here.

“You’re Under
Investigation”: A New IRS Email Scam

How to Recognize
and Avoid the IRS Audit Scam

NEW IRS Notice is
Really a Phishing Scam

Tax Scams: What
You Really Need to Watch Out for

Four Currently Hot IRS Scams:

  1. In a new IRS scam aimed at seniors, the fakers tell the
    victim they can get his or her Social Security payroll taxes
    refunded for an upfront fee based on the size of the rebate,
    plus a percentage of the refund.

    Naturally, they say it will be a big refund and inflate their
    “fee” to match it, producing and filling in a tax form as
    “evidence.”

    Trouble follows: The law doesn’t allow a refund of taxes paid
    into Social Security and the taxpayer may end up having to pay
    penalties for filing a fraudulent return.

  2. A “we owe you money” email seemingly comes from the Internal
    Revenue Service. The subject line reads something like “Tax
    notification” or “2007 fiscal activity refund” and invites you
    to click on a link that takes you to a convincing-looking IRS
    website.

    But the site is an IRS scam, which as usual, asks for personal
    details. It can be quickly identified as fake. It has the same
    links as IRS pages, but when you click on them, the page simply
    refreshes instead of taking you to the link.

    And the bottom line again: The IRS does NOT send out refunds
    this way. If the IRS wants to get in touch, it sends a letter.
    The only way it collects your bank account details is if you
    choose to put them in your tax return. Period.

  3. Instead of claiming the IRS owes you money, another tax scam
    offers a reward to you for filing your return early. Again, a
    phone caller will ask for bank details.

    Not only does the IRS not seek such details by phone — but it
    also doesn’t pay rewards for early returns!

  4. Another sneaky trick is an email that offers taxpayers $80
    for filling an online customer satisfaction survey. Of course,
    you’re expected to enter all your personal details on the form.
    Don’t fall for this — it’s a scam.

There are lots more IRS scams — more than 1,000 at the last
count!

Some of them have been around for years, yet still find
victims. For more information, check out our ScamBusters
articles mentioned earlier, or visit the target="_blank">IRS website.

How to Spot an IRS Scam

IRS scammers try to convince you that their call or email is
genuine in a number of ways. Here are some of the tricks they
use to try to fool you:

  1. They invent a refund sum that sounds convincing — not too
    big and not too round. Something like $134.80 sounds legit,
    doesn’t it?

    Here’s an example making the rounds at the moment (all it would
    bring you, if you clicked the link, is a piece of spyware that
    installs on your computer).

    — begin scam email —

    From: Internal Revenue Service (IRS) [mailto:irs@getrefundnow.com]
    Sent: Monday, January 28, 2008 11:35 AM
    Subject: Tax Notification

    Tax Notification
    Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
    United States Department of the Treasury
    Date: 01/28/2008

    After the last annual calculations of your fiscal
    activity we have determined that you are eligible
    to receive a tax refund of $134.80.

    Please submit the tax refund request and allow us
    6-9 days in order to process it.

    A refund can be delayed for a variety of reasons.
    For example submitting invalid records or applying
    after the deadline.

    To access the form for your tax refund, click here.

    Regards,
    Internal Revenue Service
    Document Reference: (92054568).

    — end scam email —

  2. They use forms with numbers similar to those the IRS already
    uses; with a jumble of numbers and letters, they just sound
    right. However, they are not.

  3. They use the official IRS logo and, very often, copy whole
    sections of text from the IRS’s website.

  4. They use real names and copied signatures of senior IRS
    people, most recently the Director of IRS Exempt Organizations,
    or names of genuine independent groups like the Taxpayer
    Advocate Service.

The lesson is: Just because something looks official doesn’t
mean it is.

Nonetheless, it’s easy to sidestep these tax scams if you just
remember these few simple rules — in addition to the ones
mentioned above — about how the IRS operates:

  • Remember that the only genuine IRS website is href="http://www.IRS.gov" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">www.irs.gov. If
    any link takes you to a page that isn’t on this site, then you
    are not visiting the IRS website.

    (You should only type www.irs.gov into your browser yourself
    and not get there by clicking a link.)

  • The only emails the IRS sends out concern general
    newsletters, events and that sort of thing. It never asks for
    financial information or discusses anything related to
    individual tax accounts by email.

  • The IRS never asks for PIN numbers, passwords or other
    confidential information for any reason or by any method — not
    even face-to-face.

  • Tax refunds are claimed through filing an annual tax return,
    not a separate application form.

One final warning for the tax season: Beware of advance refund
loans
: organizations offering to loan you the money you’re
expecting to get as a tax refund this year.

Although they may be perfectly legit, many lenders charge huge
rates of interest, plus administration fees, processing fees,
and so on. You are basically paying through the nose to borrow
your own money.

Sending your return in on time will sometimes get you your
money in just a few weeks — without this hefty penalty.
After all, you’ve worked for it, so make the most of it!

So, it’s easy to avoid these IRS scams — just a little
knowledge and attention can do wonders.

Time to close — we’re off to take a walk. See you next week.