IRS warning: Scammers work year-round; stay vigilant
I will keep it brief, but this is an important issue year-round. As tax practitioners, we are noticing an uptick in the targeting of small business owners who provide tax services so we are very aware of the various methods that scammers can use.
The IRS (and its authorized private collection agencies) will never text, call, or email you. They will never request payment immediately or for payment through gift cards, nor do they ask for credit or debit card numbers via email, text, or phone. The IRS (and its authorized private collection agencies) does not demand payment without a chance to appeal, furthermore you will receive multiple notices before they ever begin the process of liens or levies. Always pay the IRS through their official methods which can be found by visiting the IRS.gov website. The primary methods are IRS Direct Pay, and mailing in a check (always make checks out to the United States Treasury and never a third-party). You can also set up payment plans with a direct debit from the specific bank account you choose to use. Please report anything that seems off to email@example.com, the Report Phishing and Online Scams page at IRS.gov provides complete details.
It is a great idea to set up access to your IRS account online. You can also establish an Identity Protection (IP) PIN. This is a six-digit number that is generated annually. You cannot file electronically using your social security number without this number.
It is also good to be aware of potential unemployment fraud at the state level. With the unprecedented effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are record levels of unemployment fraud. If you receive a notice in the mail with regards to an unemployment claim you should reach out to the state agency (TWC in Texas) and inform them of potential fraudulent activity. Business owners should be aware of these as well. You may receive correspondence in regards to an unemployment claim for an employee of yours that is still employed full-time or did not file a claim. If you receive a 1099-G and you did not get the unemployment you will need to report it to the state agency that issued the form and request a corrected 1099-G. Here is a link for Texas residents/businesses that can help - TWC Reporting Fraud. You can also check DOL.gov/fraud for other state contacts and steps to take.
Help for victims of ID theft
Unfortunately, scams and schemes can often lead to identity theft. While identity theft can have many consequences, the IRS focuses on tax-related identity theft.
Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses an individual’s stolen Social Security number (SSN) to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund. Taxpayers may be unaware of this activity until they e-file a tax return and discover that a return has already been filed using their SSN. Or, the IRS may send them a letter saying it has identified a suspicious return using their SSN.
If a taxpayer learns their SSN has been compromised, or they know or suspect they are a victim of tax-related identity theft, the IRS recommends these additional steps:
Individuals should respond immediately to any IRS notice; call the number provided.
Taxpayers should complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit (.pdf), if an e-file tax return rejects because of a duplicate filing under their SSN or they are instructed to do so by the IRS. Individuals can use a fillable form at IRS.gov, then print and attach the form to their paper return and mail according to instructions.
Victims of tax-related identity theft should continue to pay their taxes and file their tax return, even if they must do so by paper.
Taxpayers who previously contacted the IRS about tax-related identity theft and did not have a resolution should call for specialized assistance at 1-800-908-4490.