Tax season is upon us. Unfortunately, tax season is seen by some as an annual opportunity to scam unsuspecting filers. Though taxes can be complicated, following a few simple rules may help protect you from scams. Here are 4 tax season don’ts and do’s.
You may get (or have already received) emails from people claiming to be from the IRS. The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through e-mail. In fact, if you receive an email from someone claiming to be the IRS, just make it a personal rule not to open the email. And if you do open one, do not click on any links, text, images or other elements of the email. Simply delete it.
If you’re concerned the IRS may be trying to reach you, just visit irs.gov, locate the appropriate contact information, and call.
Another possible tax scam involves a criminal calling potential victims claiming to be an IRS agent. It is important to remember that the IRS will initiate contact with you through official correspondence sent through the mail. Be cautious about receiving calls out of the blue from someone claiming to be the IRS.
Do call and talk.
Similar to your response with emails, if you’re concerned about the IRS trying to reach you, call them yourself.
As a simple rule, it’s a good idea to resist giving out your Social Security Number if it is requested by service providers, on forms, and the like.
Do ask if there’s another way you can identify yourself.
In some cases, you’ll have to provide your Social Security Number to identify yourself. But wherever you can, try to identify yourself with other data: your birthday, address, etc. You should always be careful about sharing personal information, even seemingly harmless details like birthdays and addresses, but you should be particularly guarded about your Social Security Number. In thieves’ hands, it may be the last thing they need to perpetrate the crimes they intend to commit.
It’s okay to use a tax preparation service, if you’re so inclined. Just make sure you do your homework.
Do ask a tax preparer if they have a PTIN and to sign the return.
One thing you’ll want to ask any tax preparation service you’re considering using is if they have a PTIN (Preparer Tax Identification Number). If they don’t have one, that may be a red flag. Another thing you should insist upon is that anyone (or any company) preparing your taxes should sign the return before filing. These safeguards will help protect against preparer-perpetrated tax crimes.
While most people don’t daydream about tax season, following a few simple rules could help you avoid a nightmare scam scenario.