While you and I have been enjoying our summer break, tax criminals have stayed on their nefarious jobs.
In some cases, they are coming up with new identity theft schemes to steal our personal information and file for fraudulent tax refunds. In others, they are ramping up criminal efforts that are oldies but, from the crooks' perspectives, goodies.
Fake IRS calls still coming: In fact, noted the Internal Revenue Service earlier this month, there's been increase this summer of impersonation scams where people get automated calls purported to be from the IRS. It's the largest tax scam ever and it shows no indication of abating.
The IRS says it has seen an increase in these robo-calls, where scammers leave urgent callback requests on phone message systems telling taxpayers to call back to settle a tax bill. Some folks wise to the scam have fun when returning the calls.
Many recipients of the calls, however, are freaked out. I can see why. I've gotten five of these messages (so far) and even though I knew it was fake, the first one cause me a momentary knot in my stomach when I heard "…from IRS."
Scary call for the unexpectedly called: Someone who doesn't know about the scam could be taken in by these fake calls, in which the mechanical voice generally claims it is the last warning before legal action is taken. Once the victim calls back, the scammers may threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the driver’s license of the victim if they don't agree to pay.
"It used to be that most of these bogus calls would come from a live-person. Scammers are evolving and using more and more automated calls in an effort to reach the largest number of victims possible," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. "Taxpayers should remain alert for this summer surge of phone scams, and watch for clear warning signs as these scammers change tactics."
The changing tactics to which Koskinen referred and which are still going strong over these traditional vacation months are from scammers demanding tax payments on iTunes and other gift cards. Remember, noted the commish, any request to settle a tax bill by putting money on any form of gift card is a clear indication of a scam.
Tax pros also are targets: Another new tax ID theft trick that's just cropped up is a phishing email aimed at tax professionals.
As I noted last week at my other tax blog, the identity thieves in these latest fake email instances pretend to be from tax software companies. They ask the tax pros to click on a link to upload the latest tax software program upgrade. What they upload instead is a whole lot of trouble for themselves and potentially their clients.
The takeaway from these renewed tax identity theft warnings is that regardless of whether you're Jane or Joe Taxpayer or a tax preparer with a lot of clients, be on guard.
August tax flurry: It was busy, busy last week at Bankrate Taxes Blog. Instead of my usual two posts on Tuesday and Thursday, I had four items. In addition to the new tax software phishing scam, I also blogged about:
- the return of some daily fantasy sports (and taxes due on those winnings),
- Donald Trump's revised tax plan in which he dumps his 0 percent tax bracket, and
- the release of another tax return by Hillary Clinton, along with a batch of filings by her running mate Sen. Tim Kaine.
Whew! There's no rest for the tax weary in August in a presidential election year.
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