It's tax filing time. That means it's tax scam time.
Every year people make money off taxes, and I'm not talking about Uncle Sam. Con artists and identity thieves long ago realized that our fear of making a tax mistake coupled with basic human greed create the perfect breeding ground for their schemes.
And some people are just too trusting. Heck, I get emails from readers all the time about their tax troubles. In addition to relaying their tax specifics, people also send me all sorts of personal details, including their Social Security and bank account numbers.
Guard your information
Really? How could you have forgotten to include your mother's maiden name?
Seriously, though, thanks for your faith in my tax knowledge and ability to help, but:
- I don't do people's taxes for a living. I write about taxes in general to help people do their own taxes.
- Don't be so naive! You are setting yourself up to get ripped off by someone not nearly as nice and honest as I.
So, before the overly personal emails start flooding in, the Internal Revenue Service and I want to once again remind you of ways to ensure you don't become a tax scam victim this filing season or ever.
First and foremost, just like me, the IRS never asks for detailed personal and financial information like PINs, passwords or similar secret access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts.
Also, the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information.
If you do get a phone call or email seeking this information, you are talking to or corresponding with a crook.
Handling email from someone claiming to be the IRS or directing you to an IRS site
- Do not reply to the message.
- Do not open any attachments. Attachments may contain malicious code that will infect your computer.
- Do not click on any links. If you clicked on links in a suspicious email or phishing website and entered confidential information, visit the IRS website and enter the search term 'identity theft' for more information and resources to help.
The address of the official IRS website is www.irs.gov. Do not be confused or misled by sites claiming to be the IRS but which end in .com, .net, .org or other designations instead of .gov.
If you discover a website that claims to be the IRS but you suspect it is bogus, do not provide any personal information on the suspicious site and report it to the IRS.
If you receive a phone call, fax or letter in the mail from an individual claiming to be from the IRS but you suspect they are not an IRS employee, contact the IRS at (800) 829-1040 to determine if the IRS has a legitimate need to contact you.
Report any bogus correspondence to the IRS. Forward suspicious email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can get additional info on how to report specific types of scams and what to do if you're victimized by going to the IRS website and clicking on "phishing" on the home page.
The IRS wants to know about every tax scam out there. The agency has investigators to track down these criminals. Help them out, not the crooks trying to get control of your money and your life.
Avoid tax scams and get other tax tips by subscribing to Bankrate's free tax newsletters. You can sign up to get a Daily Tax Tip. Or if you prefer a more consolidated collection, subscribe to the Weekly Tax Tip newsletter. Or sign up for both.
You also can follow me on Twitter @taxtweet.