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At tax time, law-abiding U.S. citizens are sharpening their pencils, gathering receipts and scrambling to find the correct forms to fulfill their duties as taxpayers. At the same time, identity thieves and scammers are sharpening their devious skills, coming up with new schemes to defraud the government and you. While such activity increases during tax season, fraudsters and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) impostors can strike any time of year. Learn about some common tax refund–related scams and tips to help avoid becoming a victim.
Scammers pretend to be IRS agents and contact taxpayers directly, demanding payment for taxes they claim are owed. They often threaten you with fines, arrest or garnishing of wages if you fail to cooperate. They may use official sounding titles and sprinkle in some of your personal information, which is easily harvested from the internet. This scamming may be done with a phone call (vishing), an email (phishing) or a text message (SMiShing) on your smartphone.
Goals of Phishing Schemes
Don't Take the Bait of These IRS Phishing Schemes
U.S. mobile carriers offer limited protection against malicious SIM swapping. Most companies offer multifactor authentication to authorize the swapping or porting of a phone number. Users should take advantage of these options, if available, and request such options, if not available.
Beware of phishing emails and other ways attackers may try to access your personal data that may help them convince your cellphone carrier that they are you.
Some carriers offer this as an additional layer of protection against SIM swapping, although phone companies typically require a customer to call and inquire about the no-port feature.
Tax refund identity theft happens when bad actors get their hands on your personal information, such as your name, date of birth and/or Social Security number and use that information to file a fraudulent tax return and obtain a refund, redirecting it to their account. It does not matter if your legitimate tax return indicates that you owe taxes or that the government owes you a refund.
Dishonest tax preparers can take advantage of you through refund fraud and identity theft. But there is also a new threat that targets tax preparers and their clients: Cybercriminals are posing as potential clients with the goal of gaining access to the tax preparer’s existing client database. The scammer poses as a client and sends an email containing malware to infect the preparer’s computer and can access all of the files and information on the preparer’s device.
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This article is for general information purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting or financial advice. PNC urges its customers to do independent research and to consult with financial and legal professionals before making any financial decisions.
Read a summary of privacy rights for California residents which outlines the types of information we collect, and how and why we use that information.
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