While it’s important to be on high alert and protect your identity all year long, tax season is an especially vulnerable time.

Every tax season, identity thieves run a variety of scams to get their hands on taxpayers’ personal information. Many scams occur, but most have a common goal: filing a fraudulent tax return in your name and getting your hard-earned money

Your Social Security number (SSN) can be lifted via data breaches, phishing scams, or even a stolen Social Security card. Criminals who steal your SSN can use it to file falsified tax returns with the IRS and receive a tax refund. Then, they hope to cash it in and disappear before anyone notices something’s amiss.

You may not discover you’ve been a victim until you submit your tax returns, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) informs you that a return has already been processed. If this happens, it can severely delay any tax refund you might be owed and further complicate your taxes.

It pays to guard against tax identity theft. Here’s how to help protect your identity during tax season.

Spotting Tax Season Scammers

Here are some ways to spot scammers during the tax season.

  • Scammers impersonate the IRS through texts, emails, and even social media messages. The IRS does not communicate with taxpayers on these platforms.
  • You get a recorded phone message. It’s probably a scam. The IRS only contacts you over the phone after sending a notice in the mail.
  • The scammer requests payments through unofficial channels. Check out the IRS website for official payment options.
  • You’re asked to pay with gift cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency. The IRS does not accept any of these payment methods.
  • Scammers trick you into giving up credit card and bank information by pretending to be the IRS. The IRS never reaches out to ask for debit or credit card information.
  • Fraudsters threaten you with arrest or deportation. The IRS does not make such calls or threats.

The Latest Tax Season Scams

Here are the latest tax scams to watch out for this tax season.

Phishing Emails Asking to Verify Information

Scammers often use phishing emails to trick taxpayers. They create an email that appears legitimate from the IRS or a tax preparation business that ultimately gets you to give up personal information by clicking on a link or downloading an attachment containing malware.

Phone Calls Demanding Money

Scammers like to pose as the IRS over the phone. They claim you owe the IRS and threaten to take legal action. Often, the scammer request a wire payment or a prepaid debit. Or, in some cases, ask for personal information to commit identity theft.

You Discover a Tax Return Was Filed Under Your Name

Tax scammers obtain victims’ personal information by claiming tax returns. Fraudulent tax returns can result in you not receiving their tax refund. You also can receive letters from the IRS requesting payment for back taxes or fraud fines.

Suspended Social Security Number

A tax scammer might trick you into believing your SSN has been suspended to get you to reveal personal information. The scammer hopes to use this information to commit identity theft or steal your money. It is important to remember that the Social Security Administration never threaten to suspend your SSN.

“Ghost” Tax Preparation Scams

Ghost tax preparation scams are where individuals falsely claim to be tax preparers and trick taxpayers into providing personal information. Once the scammer has your personal information, they try to file a tax fraud return or commit other identity theft crimes. That’s why it’s crucial to verify the credentials of your tax preparer and use reputable and licensed tax preparation services.

Email Requesting Additional Tax Forms

Tax scammers create phishing emails to trick you into providing tax forms containing personal information. The emails appear from a legitimate government agency, such as the IRS, instructing you to complete the additional tax forms. The scammers then use this information to commit identity theft or steal money from you.

Overdue Unemployment Benefits

Beware of tax scams related to overdue unemployment benefits. Scammers may call, email, or text, posing as an IRS representative and offering to help you receive your overdue payments in exchange for personal information or payment. If you have any concerns or questions about your payments, it’s best to contact the IRS directly.

A Call from a Tax Agency Other Than The IRS

Scammers impersonate tax agencies claiming you owe back taxes or penalties and threatening legal action if you don’t pay immediately. If you receive a call like this, hang up and report the call to the agency they claim to represent.

Overdue Payment Scam

The scammer threatens you with legal action or arrest for not paying taxes by pretending to be associated with the IRS. The scammer often demands wire or prepaid debit card payments to get victims to pay this fake overdue payment.

Offer in Compromise (OIC) Scams

Scammers target individuals or businesses struggling to pay tax debts, promising to reduce the debt for a fee. As a result, the scammer often takes the fee and doesn’t relieve any debt leaving you in a worse financial position.

Demanding Payment in Gift Cards Or Cryptocurrency

Gift cards and cryptocurrency are hard to trace and are not easily reversed, making it easier for scammers to get away with the money without being caught. The IRS does not accept payments in gift cards or cryptocurrency; receiving a call or text message requesting these types of payments is a scam.

Protect Yourself from Tax Season Scams

Here’s how to help protect your identity during tax season.

File Your Tax Return ASAP

Employers must provide you with income documentation, such as W2s and 1099s, by Jan. 31. You should gather all necessary documents to prepare and file your tax returns as early as possible. This is the easiest way to help prevent tax fraud and identity theft scams.

Filing your tax returns now gives thieves a much smaller time window to file a falsified return in your name. Once you’ve successfully submitted your taxes to the IRS, criminals can no longer file a return in your name.

Think Before You Act.

Ignore calls, texts, or emails that threaten you to act immediately – especially if you are told you owe money to the IRS, and it needs to be paid immediately.

When in Doubt, Throw It Out.

Avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments in unsolicited emails. More than likely, it’s probably a thief trying to trick you into giving up your personal information.

Utilize Secure Wi-Fi Hotspots.

Avoid using Public Wi-Fi. Cybercriminals can intercept public internet connections while you are filing sensitive information.

Make Better Passwords.

Use longer passwords that use a combination of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols to better protect your personal information from cybercriminals.

Stay on Top of the Software.

Having updated software on all devices that connect to the internet is critical. This includes security software, web browsers, and operating systems for PCs, Macs, and mobile devices.

Protect Your Information

Take precautions now to protect your info with identity theft protection. Use top-rated IdentityIQ identity theft protection services to monitor your information. You’re alerted in real-time for possible suspicious activity. By signing up for identity theft protection, you can help avoid threats to your information during the tax season. These services are dedicated to protecting you!