We here at Heritage Accounting strive to help you feel comfortable when it comes to the complex world of accounting and taxes. However, though uncomfortable, we also want to be sure that you are aware of some of the ways that certain nefarious people may try to take advantage of you. Additionally, we want you to know that, as our client, you have people who can help if you find yourself in an identity theft situation. Like it or not, all of us have some kind of sensitive information floating out there in the ambiguous “cloud” of the internet, especially if we file taxes. However, the majority (if not all) of this information is locked tightly away behind excellent security and encryption. Most identity thieves are acutely aware of this, and rather than attempting to force their way through all of this security, they have resorted to much simpler and deceptive tactics. Identity thieves will often attempt to steal your money and identity in a tax-related scam via email (this is called “phishing”), fax, phone, or letters. Some recent examples of such identity theft scams are:
- Refund Scam – A bogus email, claiming to come from the IRS, tells you that you are eligible to receive a tax refund for a given amount if you just follow the instructions in the email.
- Inherited Funds, Lottery Winnings, and Cash Consignment Scams – A bogus email, claiming to come from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, notifies you that you will receive millions of dollars if you follow the instructions in the email. This may be a multi-step scheme that includes instructions for you to deposit taxes on the funds before they can be paid out or the issuance of a phony check on which you must pay 10% tax before the check can be deposited.
- EFTPS Scam – A bogus email, claiming to come from the IRS, contains a realistic-looking screenshot of the IRS website with a message about fraud attempts regarding your bank account. The email states that the bank account can be unblocked if you just click a link and provide information.
- SSN/EIN Scam – bogus fax or phone call, claiming to be from the IRS, informs you that you have failed to submit required bank account details. You are asked to provide your SSN, EIN, bank information, and even signatures. This will often come in the form of a realistic-looking form for you to fill out and fax or scan and email.
If you receive an email you are not expecting or do not know the sender, do not click on any links or open any of the attachments. If you receive a tax-related phishing email, do not click on the links or open any attachments. Forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the IRS at 800-829-1040. Be aware that the IRS will never initiate contact with you by email or any social media tools to request personal or financial information. It is also unusual for the IRS to initiate contact by fax or phone call. You can call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to verify that an unexpected fax or phone call is legitimate. Do not give out your information over the phone unless you initiated the call or have verified the caller’s identity.
Once acquired, an identity thief might use your Social Security number to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund. You could be completely unaware that your identity has been stolen until your return is rejected for e-filing or you get an IRS notice or letter. If a SSN on your tax return has been fraudulently used to file a return for the year already, you will not be able to e-file your return and must file a paper return. If you receive and IRS notice stating that more than one return was filed in your name for the year or you have a balance due, refund offset, or initiation of collection for a year you did not file a return, then contact us immediately to first verify the legitimacy of the notice and further resolve the situation in full compliance.
There are other considerations where tax-related identity theft is concerned. If you feel you have or may have been the victim of identity theft, contact us to discuss the implications and appropriate steps to take to protect your tax account with the IRS. We will work with you to be sure that you are protected from any undue liability and/or penalties imposed because of someone else’s actions. Remember, as a client of Heritage Accounting, you have people.
-Heritage Accounting and Tax Services