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How to Protect Yourself from Tax Refund Scams

Every year taxpayers are forced not only to deal with their taxes but also something more insidious. That very obnoxious and dangerous threat is the presence of scammers. Some people will go to any lengths to get money that isn’t theirs. And tax time, when large sums of money are changing hands, has proven to be a lucrative time for scammers to do their nefarious work.

Luckily, you can prepare yourself ahead of time. Scammers prey on ignorance. So educating yourself about common scams and basic IRS knowledge will take you far in protecting yourself from tax refund status scams.

Email Scams
You’ve sent off your tax return and are wondering impatiently about your refund status. However after a few weeks, you receive an email from the IRS. It tells you that there has been a huge error on your form and may affect your tax refund status! It also says if you send some personal info they can fix your tax refund status right up for you.

So you start to reply to the email, but a nagging feeling in the back of your brain stops you. Good thing, too; this is a major scam to divert your tax refund!

How do you know it’s a scam? The IRS will never contact you through email. If they do write to you, even about your refund status, it will be through the mail. If any email, including ones about your refund status, comes into your inbox and says it is from the IRS, it’s a scam. No matter how official it looks, don’t click on anything. Instead, report it to the IRS through their website.

Phone Scams
Instead of a random email, you might get a phone call from someone claiming to be at the IRS asking for your refund status. You remember that while you didn’t list your phone number on the IRS form, they might have been able to look it up. Thus, it could be a real phone call from them.

Nope! Again, the IRS will never contact you in any way other than through the mail. Often, these phony phone callers will try to scam you out of your bank information or refund status. They will hook you with a lie such as that you are entitled to a larger tax refund due to early filing. Don’t fall for it! If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, try and get their phone number so you can report it to the real IRS.

Fake Service Providers
Have you ever been contacted by a tax service provider who tells you he can help you get a tax credit due to “African-American reparations”? Or a “natural disaster that affected your area”? While some people can get tax credits due to natural disaster, this has to be fully documented and it has to affect you, not just “your area.” And the African-American reparations thing? Total nonsense. These scammers will take your money to file for some obscure tax break or loophole, but come tax refund time you will realize that the only person earning extra money was the scammer.

Safeguard your tax refund status by preparing your own taxes or having them prepared by a licensed and credentialed professional. And if the IRS emails or calls you, be wary – this is a scam and the person on the other end doesn’t have the best interests of you – or your tax refund status – in mind!


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