‘Tis the season—tax season, that is. And with it comes the gift of new or updated tax rules … and new tax scam victims.
The 2021 individual tax return filing window is about to close, and IRS officials are warning against old and new scams.
“Cybercriminals are constantly becoming more clever in their tactics—whether they’re impersonating IRS agents or crafting phishing emails—and unfortunately, innocent people are falling into their traps,” said Keith Parsons, BOK Financial’s® director of financial crimes.
Just last year, nearly $770 million in fraud was reported—and that’s just those scams using social media. “Fraud is a silent crime,” said Angela Gillespie, BSA/AML officer. “When you look at the rise in overall attempts on banks and associated costs, it’s staggering.”
It’s important to recognize and be mindful of ongoing scams to protect yourself from identity theft and safeguard your personal information, especially during tax season, Parsons said.
Text messages and phishing scams
Scammers love cell phones as much as the rest of us … but for different reasons.
“People looking for victims will often send fake messages with links that claim to be valid IRS websites. However, the IRS doesn’t use text messages as a method for discussing individual tax information,” Parsons said, adding that individuals should be cautious if they receive tax-related messages via social media platforms, which are also not used by the IRS.
Like text message scams, cybercriminals use phishing emails to send messages that appear to be from the IRS. Never click on any links or open attachments in unexpected text messages or emails, and report any suspicious content directly to the IRS.
The average person receives about 28 spam calls per month. So how do you know if a call purporting to be from the IRS is real?
“If the IRS needs to contact you, they won’t leave a pre-recorded, threatening message. While there are times that the IRS will call, you would likely have received several official letters ahead of the call,” said Gillespie.
Criminals often fake caller ID numbers to appear to be from the IRS office, making it extremely difficult to determine the call’s true origin. Be wary of any phone calls that:
- Demand immediate payment, especially with prepaid debit cards or gift cards.
- Threaten to immediately contact local law enforcement or issue a warrant for your arrest.
- Demand taxes be paid—no questions asked.
- Ask for your credit or debit card numbers.
If you think you may owe the IRS, view your balance online or contact the IRS directly to confirm.
Unemployment fraud scams
Fraudsters capitalized on the record unemployment levels during the pandemic, using stolen personal information to submit fraudulent unemployment claims.
Unfortunately, many victims of unemployment fraud don’t realize they’ve been victimized until tax time, when they receive specific tax forms detailing unemployment benefits they never collected.
If you receive a 1099-G form that’s incorrect or for benefits you didn’t receive, follow the steps outlined on the Department of Labor website to report suspected unemployment fraud.
Tax-related identity theft
Many discover they’re a victim of identity theft when they file their tax return, only to find out that one has already been filed with the same Social Security Number. The IRS recommends taking these steps if you suspect you’re a victim of tax-related identity theft.
“Tax-related or not, it’s crucial that individuals continually monitor their personal accounts for any suspicious activity,” said Gillespie. “If you see accounts you don’t recognize on your credit report or spot unfamiliar transactions, you might consider taking steps to report and develop a recovery plan for identity theft.”
Being aware of ongoing scams is the first step. Experts recommend remaining vigilant of suspicious activities at all times—especially during tax season. Think before you click on any unexpected communications and report any fraud immediately.
Learn more about BOK Financial’s online security, or call 844.517.3308 to report suspicious activity on BOK Financial-related accounts. In addition, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency keeps an up-to-date list of current threats.