The Internal Revenue Service is warning US taxpayers about a wave of scams this week. The IRS stated that scammers are “hard at work looking for ways to steal your personal information and your money.”
Today is the revised tax deadline, following the initial grace period during the early stages of the pandemic. Scammers are counting on people being stressed out and confused by current circumstances. This type of criminal thrives on uncertainty, so be wary. Here are a few of the tricks they are likely to try.
Scammers take every opportunity to trick you into giving away personal information. This is called “phishing,” and it’s especially bad right now.
Here’s how it works. Criminals contact you and pretend to be someone official–a representative from your bank, for example, or an IRS agent. The playbook usually involves applying some kind of pressure. They’ll tell you that you owe back taxes, and that if you don’t pay right now, you could lose your home or suffer wage garnishment.
Alternatively, they might say that you’re getting a big tax return, but they need to confirm your bank information first.
Either way, you are tricked into giving away personal information. This might include your Social Security number, your banking details, or credit card information.
The scammers may call you or send an email. Some tech-savvy criminals have also started using text messages. If you are contact by anything other than an old-fashioned letter in your mailbox, then the message is not from the IRS.
If you get an email about tax preparation, proceed with extreme caution. These emails often seem to be from a legitimate source like H&R Block. The logo and graphic design can trick you into thinking that this is really a message from a trusted tax preparer. However, if there’s an attachment to download, then this is a scam.
The current wave of scams asks targets to download an application called TeamViewer. This program latches onto your computer programs, stealing information, and can even allow scammers to take over the entire machine.
Clearly, you don’t want that to happen. The best way to stay safe is not to download any attachments from an email.
A particularly nasty scam making the rounds is one where the criminals claim to be government representatives. They say that you owe overdue taxes–and if you don’t pay up, they’ll suspend or cancel your Social Security number. This is not something the actual government would ever do. But if you don’t know that, you could easily be scared enough to pay up.
These scammers already have your SSN, which they stole in a data leak. This information might make them seem even more legitimate, but remember: the US government always sends actual letters before contacting you through any other means. Hang up and then consider filing a report with the Federal Trade Commission.