iStock_000053500664_XXXLargeWe all dread tax season and the possibility of writing a big check to Uncle Sam, but there’s another reason to be wary of the spring. Tax season is also fraud season for many con artists, who have figured out increasingly clever ways of stealing your hard-earned money.

It’s easy to fall for tax scams: A call from the IRS elicits a certain response, doesn’t it? We all just want to make the problem go away, so some people panic and pay whatever they “owe” immediately. The problem is that some people don’t check to be sure that it’s really the IRS on the phone!

The fact is, IRS phone calls are usually a scam. Con artists are aware that a call from the IRS makes people feel vulnerable and desperate to fix potential problems, so they disguise their numbers so that your caller ID display reads “Internal Revenue Service”. They might even choose a number that reads, “Your Local Police Department”, making you believe you’re in danger of being arrested!

Con artists may also use threatening or harassing tactics such as calling you repeatedly, or telling you that you could face jail time if you don’t “pay up” right away. Many people, desperate to fix the problem, pay the “tax bill” over the telephone by giving out their credit card or checking account routing numbers.

Another common tax scam works in the opposite way: A caller may claim that you’re due a tax refund, and all you have to do is verify your bank account number. The direct deposit you were promised never arrives, but your identity is stolen and your bank account is drained.

Luckily, there are ways to protect yourself against tax scams. For one thing, remember that the IRS will not call you if there is a problem with your tax return, or to offer you a refund. The IRS will communicate by mail if they need to talk to you. Also, anyone who requests bank account numbers, your Social Security number, or any other information by phone or email should be suspected of fraud. Report any suspicious activity to the Treasure Inspector General for Tax Administration.

14228 – 2015/3/10