While it's easier for criminals to exploit tax themes around the April filing deadline, tax scams crop up 365 days a year.
But despite the time of year, the most popular tax con remains the same: phishing.
Identity thieves send out emails purporting to be from the Internal Revenue Service and request personal and tax information from the recipients.
A new phishing scheme has shown up this fall.
It announces "important information about your tax return," specifically that "we are unable to process your tax return."
Filled with spelling and grammar errors, the message continues:
"Our records indicate that the person identified as the primary taxpayer or spouse on the tax return did not provided (sic) all the required documents shown on the tax form. Our records are based on information received from the Social Security Administration.
Based on this information, the tax account for the individual has been locked."
To get any expected refund, continues the fake IRS message, the email recipient needs to reply to the message with all his or her financial and tax data.
Apparently, there still are people out there – they're known as ID theft victims -- who haven't gotten the message: The IRS does not send taxpayers emails asking for personal information.
Sometimes, though, the emails are pretty persuasive, such as when the criminals cite real IRS forms and notices in the fake emails.
Recent tax phishing efforts, for example, have referred to Notice CP01H.
The IRS does indeed have a real CP01H that it sends to filers when, according to the official IRS website, "we were unable to process your tax return. The IRS has locked your account because the Social Security Administration informed us that the Social Security number (SSN) of the primary or secondary taxpayer on the return belongs to someone who was deceased prior to the current tax year."
The big difference, though, is that the real IRS will you this notice the old-fashioned way, via the U.S. Postal Service.
So don't fall for any email communication that's allegedly from the IRS, regardless of how realistic it might seem.
I'll say it again: The IRS does not contact taxpayers via email.
If you are awaiting a refund, take the initiative. Look into your tax money's status yourself via the IRS's Where's My Refund? tracking tool.
And if you get any scam emails, ignore them and then forward the bogus email to the IRS at email@example.com.
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