When it comes to protecting your personal or financial information, it’s never a bad idea to be overly cautious. With 2019 halfway over, there has been no shortage of frauds and scams. The IRS recently released a list of this year’s “Dirty Dozen,” which highlights a wide variety of schemes. Here are a few to watch out for and avoid:
Stealing identities is one of the most popular scamming tactics today—and it’s not just during tax season. While the IRS has made major improvements in detecting this, the department continues to ask taxpayers for help to prevent this common crime. One of the biggest patterns they’ve seen is criminals filing fraudulent tax returns using someone else’s Social Security number. While taxes are only typically filed in the first-half of the year, some business owners file quarterly and need to be aware of this ongoing scam. According to consumer.gov, keep yourself protected by shredding any papers with your personal information and keep your financial records, Social Security and Medicare cards in a safe place. Additionally, use passwords that aren’t easy to guess and do not respond to emails that request personal information.
It’s unfortunate to think about, but there are many groups pretending to be charitable organizations and seeking donations from unsuspecting contributors. One of the most common in 2019 is reaching out to disaster victims and claiming to be working for or on behalf of a related charity. Before making any kind of donation to a cause, ensure you do your research. If the charity name is eerily similar to a nationally-known organization or another popular group, there’s a chance it could be a fraud. Never give out personal information unless it is a trusted charity and don’t send or give cash. To protect yourself, contribute by check or credit card (both which provide documentation)—and you’ll have record of what you donated for security and tax purposes.
No, this isn’t the relaxing hobby by a lake with pole in hand; instead, this kind of phishing is usually associated with stress and anxiety. Merriam-Webster defines phishing as “a scam by which an Internet user is duped (as by a deceptive e-mail message) into revealing personal or confidential information which the scammer can use illicitly.” The best way to avoid being phished is to avoid emails or websites that want to steal personal information. And, it’s important to remember that the IRS will never contact you by email or text messages about a bill or tax refund—so you shouldn’t open or click on one.
Phone calls from criminals impersonating IRS agents and other fraudulent groups remains an ongoing threat. There’s been an increased surge in these types of cases and people are still being taken advantage of—whether by giving personal information or sharing financial account information. Neither is good! Also known as “vishing” (voice phishing), phone scams have cost thousands of people millions of dollars and, according to the IRS, variations on these aggressive calling schemes doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Protect yourself by never sending funds immediately when requested or threatened. Be extra weary of “robo-calls” (a text-to-speech recorded voicemail with instructions to call back a specific telephone number), too. When all else fails, be overly careful and don’t fall for the phone calls that seem sketchy.
Many of these scams, unfortunately, will most likely still be on the IRS’ radar throughout the remainder of the year. That’s why it’s extra important to protect your personal information at all times. If you fall victim to a scam, be sure to know what steps to take and what to do in the future.