As you gear up to enjoy the summer, the IRS has a message: don’t let down your guard!
The agency recently released its annual ‘Dirty Dozen’ tax scams, a kind of “worst of” fraudster guide for 2022. As it has done for more than 20 years, the IRS highlights the most prevalent scams and schemes to raise awareness among taxpayers and the professional tax community.
Almost immediately after COVID-19 hit, criminals went into high gear, using the pandemic to steal money and identities with bogus emails, social media posts and unexpected phone calls.
The scammers started by using Economic Impact Payments (aka stimulus checks) and continue to promote the scam by texting, calling, or emailing unsuspecting taxpayers, luring victims with promises of securing more money from the government.
Even though most taxpayers who were due payments have already received them, the offer of additional money has prompted people to provide personal information, like Social Security numbers and bank account details.
“Scammers continue using the pandemic as a device to scare or confuse potential victims into handing over their hard-earned money or personal information,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “I urge everyone to be leery of suspicious calls, texts and emails promising benefits that don’t exist.”
This scam leapfrogs off a tried-and-true pattern, which the IRS places under the category of “suspicious communications.”
At its base level, fraudsters prey on feelings, like fear of owing the IRS money, greed of being owed money, or empathy for others, which comes in the form of fake charitable donations. Once victims are on high emotional alert, they are more likely to provide sensitive personal financial information, money, or other information, which can be used to file false tax returns and tap into financial accounts.
“Criminals have used these methods for years,” says Rettig. The reason is simple: the scams work.
The agency underscores that we need to be on the lookout for bogus calls, texts, emails, and posts online to gain trust or steal. “If you are surprised or scared by a call or text, it’s likely a scam, so proceed with extreme caution,” adds Rettig.
As a reminder, the IRS (and its authorized private collection agencies) will never:
— Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
— Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
— Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
— Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
— Use text messages to discuss personal tax issues and will not send taxpayers messages via social media platforms.
— Initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information.
“Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes. All tax payments should only be made payable to the US Treasury and checks should never be made payable to third parties. For anyone who doesn’t owe taxes and has no reason to think they do: Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.”
One last scam warning, this time from the Federal Trade Commission, which reported consumers lost over $1 billion to fraud involving cryptocurrencies from January 2021 through March 2022.
The agency’s analysis suggests that “cryptocurrency is quickly becoming the payment of choice for many scammers, with about one out of every four dollars reported lost to fraud paid in cryptocurrency.”
Crypto-related scams often begin on social media, but the investment scams tend to use the same playbook: a guarantee of big profits.
Jill Schlesinger, CFP, is a CBS News business analyst. A former options trader and CIO of an investment advisory firm, she welcomes comments and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out her website at www.jillonmoney.com.