Here are some tips to follow to keep you and your private information safe in various situations.
Staying Safe On Social Media
- Don’t post or send private or tax related information anywhere on these types of platforms. Even if you have your social media accounts set to a limited audience under privacy settings, if you are using an open wi-fi network, like at the local coffee shop or in a hotel room, your information can be captured as it goes over that connection.
- Don’t open or respond to direct messages coming from social media platforms. For example, anybody that can see your public profile on Facebook, can generate a direct message to you, even when they are not listed in your ‘friends’ categories. Opening these messages can often then let this sender begin a conversation with you. Fraudsters can use this new access to try to obtain information from you, which they can use to steal your identity.
- See our TAS Tax Tips: Keep safe on social media at tax time – Don’t post or message tax info article for more information.
Staying Safe While Using Email, Phone Or On A Website
- Don’t click links or open attachments in unsolicited emails or text messages about your tax return or those claiming to be from the IRS. These messages are fraudulent and could contain malware that could compromise your personal information.
- Don’t provide personal information or send a payment to anyone claiming to be a government official before verifying their identity.
- It’s important to remember that the IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, iTunes gift card, or wire transfer.
- Ask a taxpayer to make a payment to a person or organization other than the U.S. Treasury.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups saying they can have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
- Demand taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
- Don’t visit or click on website addresses that doesn’t end in ‘.gov’. There are lots of times where websites are built to look like official government sites but are not the real thing. So, be wary if the link doesn’t use “https” at the beginning (which means it is secure) or ‘.gov’ at the end (.gov is the extension all official offices use.).
- See Here’s how taxpayers can avoid the hooks of phishing scams for more information.
Staying Safe By Choosing A Credible Tax Professional
- Don’t use a ghost preparer. A ghost preparer won’t sign a tax return they prepare for you. Always check credentials before working with any tax return preparer. (See our Tax Tip Choosing the right tax return preparer for you for more on this topic.)
- Don’t sign a blank tax return, even if it is a family member helping you. Wait to sign until after you have reviewed the completed information. You are responsible for what appears on tax returns filed with the IRS. Signing a blank tax return allows someone else the opportunity to potentially report incorrect information, which you may be held liable for later.
- Don’t fall for false claims by preparers. If an individual or company offers to ‘save you thousands on taxes’ or ‘get you the biggest refund you’ve ever had’ be very cautious. Generally, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is (video). Everyone pays a set amount of taxes, per the tax laws, and legally must follow those rules.
- Visit the Abusive Tax Schemes and Abusive Tax Return Preparers – IRS Lead Development Center for more information on this topic.
There are a lot of good public articles with tips to help you keep your information safe – read them and keep up-to-date. There’s always a new vulnerability being discovered and what you don’t know really can hurt you.
The IRS also provides more information about schemes, phishing, abusive tax preparers, and identity theft. Use these resources to learn more:
- Phishing, Identity Theft and Scams
- Report Phishing and Online Scams
- Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts
- Publication 3995, Recognizing Illegal Tax Avoidance Schemes
- Tax Scams – How to Report Them
- How Do You Report Suspected Tax Fraud Activity?
- Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft
- IRS warning: Scammers work year-round; stay vigilant
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