Tax-filing fraud could hit an all-time high in 2018, as a result of last year's Equifax data breach.
Millions of names, addresses and Social Security numbers may be compromised, and an identity thief armed with your personal information can file a tax return in your name and collect a refund (more on this below).
But even if your identity wasn't stolen, you could still fall victim to some very slick scams. The IRS is warning about some of the top tax scams to watch out for this filing season.
Top tax season scams in 2018 include:
Email from the IRS: This is a scam dating back more than a decade. There are many different versions: it may say, "Click here to see your refund," or, "Click here to see a problem with your return."
But the IRS does not email taxpayers about problems, or the status of your refund. You can look your refund up, but they won't email you about it. Almost any email purporting to come from the IRS is a phishing scam, to get you to give personal information. Don't respond.
Threatening phone calls from the IRS: This is the 5-year-old IRS phone scam, where a caller claims you owe taxes, and will be arrested within hours if you fail to pay. Hang up on these callers. And remind your older relatives.
Refund return scam: The IRS has just issued an alert about this new scam for 2018. It's a bit confusing, but it can cost you $3,000 or more if you fall or it.
What happens is that scammers file a tax return in your name, with data stolen from the Equifax breach or elsewhere. They then have a fraudulent refund deposited into your actual bank account.
They then call or email you posing as an IRS agent, saying the refund was an error (this will throw you off, as it actually was an error).
They threaten you with criminal fraud charges if you don't return the refund, telling you to wire transfer that $3,000 or so back to the "IRS." But you have sent it to the scammer, and when the IRS finds you were sent a fake refund, you may have to return that.
The key to remember here is that the IRS will not call or email you with any sort of threat.
TurboTax phishing scams
TurboTax says scammers are again sending emails to customers claiming there has been some problem with your return, and that you need to recover your account.
Another version claims your W2 or tax refund is ready for you to see. The emails ask you to log in.
But these are phishing scams to get you to divulge personal information.
Never log in if you can't be sure the email really came from TuboTax.
How did they know you were a TurboTax customer? They don't: they were just fishing for customers, knowing that this is the #1 tax prep program in the U.S.
If you want to check the status of your refund, go to www.irs.gov, and look for the "Where's my refund" section. It's that easy.
Be suspicious of any email that appears to come from the IRS, so you don't waste your money.
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