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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

How to identify and respond to common tax scams

Feb 23, 2024 02:08PM ● By Grand Junction Police Department

Tax season is here, which unfortunately means scammers are on the prowl, attempting to steal your money and possibly your identity. Each year, thousands of people fall victim to tax scams, resulting in substantial financial losses and the risk of compromising their identity. In the fiscal year 2022, the IRS launched over 2,550 criminal investigations and uncovered more than $31 billion from tax and financial crimes.

Tax scams take on many forms. Here are some of the most common, as reported by the IRS and digital security company Aura:

1. Phishing emails: 

Scammers use this email tactic to trick people into giving them their personal information (scammers are “fishing” for your info).

Scammers send emails pretending to be from the IRS or another legitimate source, often using threatening or urgent subject lines to demand payment. Clicking on the link in the email takes you to a fake IRS website where any information you provide goes straight to the scammer. This could include your Social Security number or credit card numbers, and you could also unknowingly download malware onto your device, allowing scammers to steal your information or let them hack your email without you knowing.

What to do: Never click on any link or call the phone number provided. The IRS does not send unsolicited emails asking for payment or personal information.  

2. Phone calls demanding money: 

Scammers use bots and robocallers to make thousands of calls at once, often pretending to be from the IRS. They’ll claim you owe taxes, demand immediate payment and may threaten you with arrest if you don’t pay.

What to do: Don’t trust caller ID. These phone scams can appear to be from the official IRS phone number, and the caller may give you a fake badge number or may even have your Social Security Number, which could have been stolen. Don’t provide them with any information. Just HANG UP!

3. Overdue refund scam:

After receiving a direct deposit refund, you might get a call or text from someone posing as an IRS agent. They’ll claim your refund was too high and ask you to return the extra money, usually via wire transfer or gift cards. The scammer may also demand immediate payment and threaten to audit you or withhold future refunds.  

What to do: The IRS will typically send a letter first to any taxpayer who owes taxes. If you receive a phone call, HANG UP. Ignore any texts and call local law enforcement immediately. 

4. Demanding payment in gift cards or cryptocurrency:

Scammers may demand payment for penalties or overpaid taxes in gift cards (like iTunes or Amazon) or cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin) over the phone or through text messages. 

What to do: The IRS doesn’t accept gift cards or cryptocurrency as payment. Ignore the threats and do not engage with scammers.

Additional advice to protect you from tax scams: 

  • Nearly all legitimate IRS communication comes as physical mail sent through the U.S. Postal Service. 
  • The IRS does not initiate contact through unsolicited emails, text messages or social media.
  • Be cautious of payment methods that can’t be reversed.
  • Any prerecorded or automated messages claiming to be from the IRS are scams.
  • The IRS will never ask for login information for your online or financial accounts.
  • The IRS does not make threats regarding arrest, ID revocation or freezing Social Security numbers.
  • Before clicking on any links in emails, check the “From” name for a .gov address to verify its legitimacy.
  • Avoid clicking on links that may contain malware, which can steal your information.
  • Verify the status of any pending refund on the IRS official website using “Where’s My Refund.”
Visiting the IRS website can provide more detailed information and suggestions for protecting yourself or reporting fraud.

If you believe you’ve fallen victim to a financial scam, report it immediately to your banking institution, then report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Federal Trade Commission

The Grand Junction Police Department (GJPD) is committed to raising awareness and providing support to those impacted by financial scams. GJPD plans to host several public safety presentations tailored for area seniors. To learn more about these presentations or to arrange one for your group or organization, call 970-549-5057. These scams are unfortunately prevalent in Montrose and Delta counties too. Report scams to the Montrose Police Department at 970-249-9110 and the Delta Police Department at 970-874-7676.

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