Can you trust the IRS?
Identity theft is rampant, and there have been plenty of situations in which financial and personal data have been compromised. Think Target, Home Depot, and J.P. Morgan Chase, most recently, affecting hundreds of thousands. While these entities are huge and the breaches far reaching, there is one even bigger that keeps the most sensitive of all financial data… and one you’re obliged to obey: the Internal Revenue Service.
However, it’s critical to your identity safety to understand the IRS rules regarding contact. Very simply, the IRS will never call you or email you. Never. Legitimate contact from the IRS always comes in the mail. Always. Nevertheless, scammers try, and we recently had a few clients who received such calls, known as phishing.
Because of the reputation of the IRS to be able to demand money, people fall prey to these phishing calls and may unwittingly reveal personal information that can be used to later hack accounts. According to the IRS, there are five telltale signs of an IRS scam:
- Call about taxes you owe without first mailing an official notice
- Demand payment without allowing you to question or appeal the amount.
- Require a specific payment method, like a pre-paid debit card. (Huge red flag: the IRS will happily accept your personal check.)
- Ask for your credit or debit card numbers.
- Threaten to contact the local police or another law enforcement agency and threaten you with arrest.
What to Do Next
If you receive such a call or email and know or think you may owe taxes, call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040 to confirm the amount owed and payment options. If you know you don’t owe taxes, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484 or online at www.tigta.gov. (See “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting.”)
If you are the victim of a scam or attempted scam, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission via their site at FTC Complaint Assistant. Select “Other” then “Imposter Scams.”
There are three primary areas on which to keep tabs regarding protecting your identity.
Review each credit card statement thoroughly and verify that each charge is accurate. Never overlook a minor but unknown charge. It’s an indicator that your account has possibly been compromised! Monitor your account online regularly to watch for charges you haven’t made.
The IRS has all of your prior work history and filing transcripts. They would never call asking you for information because they already have it.
You can actually register online at www.irs.gov to receive a copy of your transcript to help prepare your taxes. Having this transcript prior to your appointment with us is extremely helpful.
Social Security Work History
Check your Social Security employment records to verify accuracy. You may have paid more into the system then was actually reported. It’s important to hold on to your pay stubs in case there is ever a dispute. You can set up an account online to track your Social Security records.