Scammers Begin Tax Season Phishing and Phone Scams
Consumer Reports has released their annual statement on how to avoid tax season phishing and phone scams this year.
According to their estimates, Americans will lose $21 million this year in tax fraud scams. The IRS notes that scammers often use promises of a larger refund or threats of jail to force victims to give out their personal information, resulting in identity theft.
This year, reported phishing scams have included time limits – one victim said that the caller demanded a $5,000 tax payment within the hour – and convincing badge ID’s, like those used by IRS phone center employees.
“The imposters can be quite convincing,” said Consumer Reports’ Tobie Stanger. “They often use phony names and IRS badge numbers. They even enlist accomplices who claim to be the police.”
“These so-called phishing schemes are aimed at getting important information like your social security number,” Stanger said. “That way, the scam artist can steal your identity, and then they can claim your refund using a fraudulent tax return.”
The IRS reminds tax payers that they never ask for personal information by phone, email, or text, so a caller that demands this information is a scam artist.
If you get a suspicious phone call, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, at 800-366-4484. It may also be appropriate to alert the FBI. If you think you have gotten an e-mail phishing for confidential information, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
South Carolina also recently launched a new identity theft unit in the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs. The identity theft unit is being implemented as part of an identity theft protection law passed at the end of last year’s legislative session, which followed a massive hack attack into the Department of Revenue’s database. The law gave the DOR the go-ahead to create an identity theft protection office, which would add four new employees dedicated solely to protecting South Carolina consumers’ and tax payers’ identities.
According to Consumer Affairs officials, South Carolina ranks 17th in the nation for identity theft complaints. In 2005, that rank was 36th. Lybarker says that the upgrade in national identity theft rank could be because there are more phishing and identity theft schemes targeting South Carolinians, or it could be because more citizens are aware of the problem and know how to report it.
“Whether it’s somebody who’s just looking for information to prevent and deter identity theft or if it’s for that person who believes they have been a victim or somebody has been subject to the security breach…they can contact us, and we can guide them through the process of mitigating the circumstances,” said Carri Grube Lybarker, the administrator for the Department of Consumer Affairs.
Identity Theft and Tax Season Fraud Can Hurt Your Future
If you have experienced identity theft, whether because of phishing emails or phone scams during tax season, you are not alone. The attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can help clear your name and even reinstate your social security benefits. We offer free, confidential consultations to discuss the facts of your case. Do not hesitate to contact us. 803.252.4800