I’m Darrin T. Mish, and I work with clients to help them resolve IRS issues. Taxes are my job and life, and while the people who live and breathe tax issues are few and far in between, it’s my life and career. IRS tax scams have cost the nation billions of dollars.
Even if you haven’t been scammed, the chances are you know someone who has. What you learn today can help anyone to be on the lookout, and to know what course to take if the unthinkable happens.
The truth is, every day of the year is open season for scammers. The fact that social media is so prominent in people’s lives increases their knowledge of how and when scams occur. On the other hand, there’s always that possibility IRS tax scams are hatched because people are so comfortable sharing personal information online.
Where IRS Tax Scams Begin
IRS tax scams usually start with someone’s Social Security number. Social Security numbers have been used more and more by private companies for numerous reasons. And in today’s world, you can never tell when online security has been breached.
Here’s as video with 6 tips to protect yourself from IRS Scams and Tax Fraud
In fact, infants can no longer be released from the hospital without having a Social Security number. No doubt it’s interesting why the government wants this identification to take place so quickly.
Getting back to social media, a lot of people offer their date of birth, even their address in some instances. All a thief needs is your Social Security number to steal your identity. Theft happens, and the thief is long gone before the victim is even aware.
If you frequent places like Facebook, you may want to use your business address. Consider the fact there are people highly skilled in searching public records online. Often, the information they need is right there at their fingertips within 30 seconds. It’s harder to steal a business identity than it is to steal a personal identity. At some point, the government may have to come up with additional security measures.
PINs to Prevent Identity Theft?
Numerous people get their personal information hijacked, and are assigned a PIN number afterward. It may just end up that the government will issue a PIN to everyone. That would allow a person to log into their own Social Security account somewhere and change their PIN number whenever they choose. Consider the following tips.
#1. Guard your personal information and be careful when and where you give it out.
Be cognizant that social media is a helpful tool, but that it can be used against you if you’re not careful.
#2. Be aware of where you’re logging onto the Internet.
Wi-fi is all over the place, but you have to be careful where you access it. Thieves can get into your computer by setting up fake hotspots. If you’re doing sensitive stuff on your computer, phone, or device, information could be intercepted.
We’ve entered a point in time where there’s simply too much information on phones and computers. The whole point of this conversation is to help make people aware that all someone needs is your name, Social Security number, and address to file a tax return in your name or to abuse your good credit.
#3. Protect your computer.
Protecting your computer should be a top priority. It’s almost impossible to conduct business without it. This includes any smart device used to access the Internet.
Make sure your computer’s firewall is always turned on. It’s also a good idea to install an effective antivirus program, which can help detect and prevent intrusions from Trojan viruses and various malware.
The right software protection program will also help you block malicious spyware. These are viruses that collect information about you. While spyware isn’t generally considered dangerous, it can contain harmful viruses. There are numerous programs on the market that can help keep your computer safe.
Keep on top of operating system updates. If it’s something you don’t understand, hire someone who can do it for you. These updates are also referred to as patches or fixes. Thieves are always trying to find holes in the Windows OS environment. Getting automatic updates will help ensure that your system is up to date.
I can’t stress enough about how important it is to protect your password. Use a string of characters, and include upper and lower case letters, numbers, and non-alphabetic characters. You should also change your passwords frequently. Do this at least once a month. Encryption is also a wise idea. This makes it virtually impossible for anyone to steal and interpret your information.
#4. Secure your personal information.
Always keep your personal records in a safe and secure place in your home or office. Your safe place should be well out of the way of visitors or clients. You can also limit the amount of personal information that you carry.
When out and about, take only the credit, debit, and identification cards that you really need. There’s really no reason to take your social security card with you. Leave it at home where it will remain safe.
If you’re on Medicare, make a copy of your documents and block out the last four digits if your Social Security number shows. Before sharing personal information with any business, ask how they will use it, and if it will be shared.
You’ll also want to know how the information will be safeguarded. It’s your information, and you have the right to inquire. Invest in an effective shredder to dispose of credit card receipts, offers, applications, typical insurance forms, check, statements from the bank, and any document that contains personal information.
If you have old prescription bottles, destroy the labels before you toss any empty bottles. This is where old-school identity thieves can retrieve a ton of information. If you’re planning on being away from home on an extended leave, request a vacation on your mail from the post office. Remember, identity thieves never take a vacation.
#5. Always be skeptical.
You’re going to receive a million offers during a lifetime. Someone is always trying to push or sell a new product. Online, everyone’s goal is to build a mailing list, so they’re going to try and capture your email address anyway they can.
#6. Always be aware of the next step if your personal information has been compromised.
First, place a fraud alert on your credit reports. This lets creditors and lenders know they should be extra careful if your name pops up for a loan. Second, contact institutions directly affected by your identity theft. Third, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can choose to file your report online, or you can call toll-free at 1-877-ID THEFT (877-438-4338).
The First Person That Files!
The way the IRS operates is that the first person who files is, basically, the one who gets the refund. Unfortunately, IRS fraud is committed in areas where police point the finger at other police in a different state. Then, it becomes an FBI matter which may not rank at the top of their priority list for solving crimes.
Even the IRS may be reluctant to prosecute if it appears to be too complicated of a matter. The “buck” simply gets passed around.
The Real Scope of Identify Theft
Identity theft is one of the most prevalent forms of white-collar crime in the United States. Each year, 10 million people may become victims. There are always things you can do to protect yourself, like the following:
- Subscribe to an identity theft protection service
- Always keep your documents in a safe place
- Never let your wallet or purse out of your site
- Keep tabs on your bank account statements
- Remove yourself from promotional lists
- Cancel any credit cards that you’re not using
- Always select passwords that would be difficult for others to fathom
- Monitor your credit
I’m an expert at helping people with their taxes, and I always stress how important it is to avoid any unnecessary headaches. Unfortunately, IRS tax scams and fraud are an everyday part of life. Let’s just say that it’s a part of human nature to take shortcuts. And as long as people think they can get away with theft, they’ll continue to look for their next victim.
Just be aware of the fact that the IRS doesn’t use email. And they don’t randomly call anyone over the phone. They won’t solicit any personal information either.
There’s a lot of good information here to digest. Just stay on top of things and you’ll survive the day.
I recorded a podcast on this topic, you can find it here if you are interested in learning more about tax fraud and irs tax scams.