Tax season is upon, which means time for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to release its “Dirty Dozen” scam list for 2017. This annual list features numerous schemes taxpayers may encounter throughout the year, but mostly occur during tax season.
It is no surprise that phishing scams are at the top of the list. Earlier this month, the IRS warned about a very refined and evolving W-2 scam that is targeting school districts, corporations, hospitals, nonprofits and regular taxpayers. According to the IRS, this particular phishing scam is not an IRS impersonation, but instead scammers are sending an email to a company’s payroll department as a company executive. The email requests a list of employees and their W-2 information, which gives the scammer access to the employees’ personal and tax information.
IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, commented, “this is one of the most dangerous email phishing scams we’ve seen in a long time. It can result in the large-scale theft of sensitive data that criminals can use to commit various crimes, including filing fraudulent tax returns. We need everyone’s help to turn the tide against this scheme.’’
According to the IRS website, the list also includes:
- Phishing: Fake emails or websites that attempt to steal personal information.
- Phone Scams: Calls from criminals pretending to be IRS agents.
- Identity Theft: Criminals file fraudulent returns using a stolen Social Security number.
- Return Preparer Fraud: Be aware of dishonest return preparers.
- Fake Charities: Be aware of criminal groups acting as charitable organizations to receive donations from innocent contributors.
- Inflated Refund Claims: Taxpayers should be wary of anyone promising inflated refunds.
- Excessive Claims for Business Credits: Avoid claiming the fuel tax credit, a tax benefit usually unobtainable to most taxpayers.
- Falsely Filling Deductions on Returns: Avoid the temptation to falsely raise deductions or expenses on their returns to pay less than what they owe or possibly receive greater refunds.
- Falsifying Income to Claim Credits: Don’t let scammers talk you into inventing income to invalidly qualify for tax credits, like Earned Income Tax Credit.
- Abusive Tax Shelters: Don’t use abusive tax structures to dodge paying taxes.
- Frivolous Tax Arguments: Don’t use frivolous tax disputes to avoid paying taxes.
- Offshore Tax Avoidance: Money and income in offshore accounts is becoming more and more heavily enforced.
Koskinen advises people to avoid opening emails or clicking on websites stating to be from the IRS. He goes on to remind that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. In addition to Koskinen’s advice, cybersecurity expert, Vinny Troia, CEO of NightLion Security adds, “cyber criminals are getting smarter. Make sure you’re using strong, tricky passwords to protect your personal information and networks. All sensitive information should be backed up with two-step authentication, which helps prevent cyber criminals from hacking into a system. Be completely sure your network has no vulnerabilities these hackers can exploit; my team offers 24/7 emergency service to companies who have been exploited.”
Click here to view the full “Dirty Dozen” list.