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Avoid tax scams! If you hear any of these statements, you're being targeted.

March 2, 2021 by Louisiana FCU

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Scammers are finding new, creative ways to get taxpayers to share personal and financial information during tax season.

If you hear any of these lines, the person saying them may be trying to steal your money or identity.

Gift and Reload Card Fraud

What it sounds like:

“We’re calling from the IRS to inform you that your identity has been stolen and you need to buy gift cards to fix it.”

“You owe tax money. You will be placed under arrest unless bail is met. If you do not have cash, we also accept gift cards.”

What you should know:

Gift cards top the list as the most reported fraud payment method since 2018. Why gifts cards? Because it's lucrative. A single gift card seems insignificant when compared to other forms of fraud. But when you consider that there were 28,000 reports of gift card fraud in 2020 alone, it's easy to see how fraudsters turn a profit from this con. 

In 2016, a Virginia Tech student was duped into sending $1,762 in iTunes gift cards to a scammer posing as an IRS agent. The thief spammed her with phone calls, then threatened to arrest her when she finally picked up. Fear and panic are a scammer's greatest weapons. Remember: Gift cards are for gifts, not payments. 

Related article: Scammers want you to send them gift cards, here's why.

Cash App Con

What it sounds like:

“Thank you for calling Cash App customer service. Please state your name and account information."

What you should know:

Cash App will never ask for your sign-in code over the phone or social media. If you plan on depositing your tax refund to a payment app, be smart about who you share your account information with.

One victim had her $4,600 tax return stolen after calling an 800 number disguised as Cash App customer service.

Related article: Scammers are using payment apps to steal your money.

The SSN Hustle

What it sounds like:

“If you don’t pay your tax bill now, we’ll cancel your Social Security number.”

What you should know:

Your Social Security number cannot be canceled, suspended, frozen or blocked. Per the IRS, if you ever receive a call threatening to suspend your SSN for an unpaid tax bill, you should hang up.

Decline sketchy transactions with real-time alerts.

Tax Lien Scam

What it sounds like:

“This is the Bureau of Tax Enforcement. We’re putting a lien or levy on your assets.”

There is no such thing as the Bureau of Tax Enforcement. This is an attempt from scammers to confuse you into thinking you owe them money. 

Similarly, victims may receive information about a special program that resolves tax liens for a small fee. As it turns out, this program is “special” because it’s a scheme. This happened to a Baton Rouge resident, who thankfully learned of its malicious intent before sending any personal information over.

Phone threats

What it sounds like:

“This is a pre-recorded message from the IRS. If you don’t call us back, you’ll be arrested.”

You must make an immediate payment over the phone, using our chosen method.

What you should know:

If you receive threatening messages about your taxes over the phone, you are the target of a phone or "vishing" (voice phishing) scam. The IRS states that its agents will never call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. If you hear this, you’ll know you’re talking to a scammer. The IRS does not leave pre-recorded voicemails, especially those claiming to be urgent and/or threatening.

Fake Emails

What it looks like:

“Click here for more details about your tax refund.”

What you should know:

The IRS will never send emails with information about tax refunds. Emails worded like this will lead the victim to an IRS-lookalike site that is actually created by scammers. Clicking on the link will load the victim’s device with malware.

TAS Fraud

What it sounds like:

“We represent the Taxpayer Advocate Service, and we need some information.”

What you should know:

Although the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is a legitimate organization within the IRS to assist taxpayers, its representatives will never call you out of the blue. If you receive an email from TAS, it's likely a phishing attack to get your personal and financial information. The TAS will not ask you to share sensitive information, like your Social Security number, over the phone.

Federal Student Tax Scams

What it sounds like:

“You owe the federal student tax.”

What you should know:

There is no such thing as federal student tax. If you get a call about it, you’re being targeted by a scammer.

Unemployment Compensation Fraud

What it sounds like:

“You received unemployment benefits in 2020, even though you didn't file for unemployment."

What you should know:

Millions of Americans received unemployment benefits in 2020 due to the pandemic. Criminals are exploiting the situation by filing for fraudulent unemployment benefits using stolen identities. If you receive a 1099-G federal tax form that lists an unemployment compensation amount that is incorrect, or that you never applied for, there's a strong chance a scammer filed an unemployment claim in your name.

If this happens to you, you should immediately report it to the state.

Related article: Scammers are stealing unemployment checks, here's how.

Social Media and Text Scams

What it sounds like:

“This is a social media post from the IRS. We need more information.

What you should know:

The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers, or ask for sensitive information, via text message or social media.

Ghost Tax Preparer

What it sounds like:

“We don’t need to sign your tax return, even though we prepared it.”

What you should know:

A legitimate tax preparer must sign your tax return and will have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). If a tax preparer is reluctant to sign yours, or to share their PTIN, you are likely dealing with a scammer.

What to do if targeted by a scam

If you’ve been targeted by any of these tax scams, you can fight back by reporting the scam to the proper authorities. Phishing emails that appear to be from the IRS can be forwarded to phishing@irs.gov. Alert the FTC about IRS phone scams and report Social Security Administration phone impostor scams on the Social Security Administration’s website.

Fraud attempts begin to spike around tax season. We encourage all of our members to download the MyCardRules app. It's 100% free and gives you the power to shut off your Louisiana FCU card at any time.