Each year, hundreds of people get misled by scammers who claim to be the IRS. Using a guise of authority or threats of immediate repercussions, scammers use fear or panic to gain your personal details.

When your personal data is compromised, scammers can steal your money or your identity. Which is very bad. What’s worse, though, is that you can be liable for all of those losses. But you can also prevent IRS scams from happening to you by watching for red flags in “IRS” correspondence or interactions. Remember, an IRS scammer’s approach is powerful, but it’s not fool-proof. If you keep your cool and recognize the signs of fraud behavior, you can protect yourself from losing money to IRS impersonators. 

The IRS operates professionally and there are a lot of things they won’t do when trying to get your attention. Here’s a list of things to remember for when an “agency” begins soliciting you for information.

The IRS Will NOT Contact You via Email, Text or Social Media

When an agency like the IRS contacts you, it’s natural to want to appease their requests. Scammers attempt to use that gut reaction against you. Although email, text and social media are not the only methods a scammer may use to infiltrate you, be aware that the IRS will never use these modes to reach you. Do not communicate with alleged IRS agents over these channels and never share your personal details or account credentials with anyone online.  

The IRS Will NOT Make Dramatic Threats or Demands

If you owe money to the IRS, they’re going to ask for it. However, they’re not going to threaten you with police action nor demand immediate payment or surrender of your personal details. As a rule, never share sensitive information, like your social security number, bank account number or other financial details, with anyone over phone or email. If anyone contacts you making demands for this information, especially without any prior correspondence, it’s likely nefarious. Don’t let fear fool you. Stay calm and confirm all IRS requests with the actual IRS. You can find government contact information on www.irs.gov.

The IRS Does NOT Need to “Confirm” Your Social Security Number

It’s rare that the IRS will call you, especially on a first correspondence, and they will never ask you to “confirm” your full social security number. If someone claiming to be the IRS contacts you about your tax forms, filing taxes, your tax return or money owed, and they need your social security number in order to give you important information, do NOT give them your personal details. This is likely a phishing scam that could compromise your identity. Never share your social security number or tax forms with an unverified agent.

If you have questions about an alleged IRS call or email, you can contact the IRS directly. To find your IRS chapter’s contact information, visit www.irs.gov.  

There is No Such Entity as the “Bureau of Tax Enforcement”

IRS and tax scammers are skilled at presenting an artificial identity. They may mimic official websites or letterhead and, in some cases, they may even present themselves as a whole other, very convincing, entity. Please be aware that the “Bureau of Tax Enforcement” does not exist. If someone contacts you from this “agency,” it is absolutely fraudulent. Remember, don’t share your sensitive information and always verify IRS correspondence with the actual IRS.  

Watch Out for Other Tax Scams

IRS scams revolve mostly around fear but there are other forms of tax scams that focus more on infiltrating your trust. For example, some scammers may pose as a tax-preparer. In this scenario, the scammer will take payment for the “service,” steal your information, and your taxes won’t get filed properly (if at all). This means, you are now be, albeit passively, committing tax evasion and could face lofty fines or jail time.

Be careful with whom you trust with your personal data and documents, and never file your taxes with an unverified individual or agency. 

What to Expect if the Real IRS is Contacting You

If the actual IRS needs to contact you, they will do so first with an official letter. If you receive a letter, you can verify its authenticity by contacting your chapter of the IRS (more info at https://www.irs.gov/). 

After sending a letter, the IRS may attempt to contact you via phone. If they have been previously unable to reach you via these methods, they may attempt to contact you in person. In this case, an IRS agent must always present two forms of valid identification and contact information with which you can verify the agent’s legitimacy. Remember, the IRS will give you ample opportunity to vet them, their correspondence and their agents. A scammer usually won’t give you that chance. 

For more information on how the IRS may contact you, see the following article from the IRS Newsroom: Avoid scams: Know the facts on how the IRS contacts taxpayers

All in all, tax season can be a stressful time, but don’t let pressure get the better of you. Be cautious and remember to never share your personal or financial details with anyone online. If you freely share your information, you may be liable for all losses incurred. 

University Federal Credit Union is here to keep our members prepared and protected. If you have any questions about your data, your safety or setting up an account with UFCU, please contact us at any time.  

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