While most people have seen spam reading— “the IRS doesn’t want you to know about this!” or “So new, your tax professional doesn’t even know about it!”— the Internal Revenue Service is urging people not to open those emails or follow those links.
IRS spokeswoman Jennifer Jenkins said, with tax season upon us, people can easily be scammed or have their identities stolen.
Jenkins said scammers get to people by sending them emails or messages through social media pretending to be from the IRS. She said they then gain access to sensitive information to steal an identity.
“We don’t email taxpayers about their accounts," Jenkins said. "We don’t use social media at Twitter and so forth to get information out to taxpayers about money that they may owe or money that they may be owed. If it’s electronic communication, that’s a clear red flag it’s not the IRS.”
Jenkins said the IRS normally contacts taxpayers through mail, and even though some scams use fraudulent letters, people should call to make sure it was the IRS who contacted them.
Jenkins said people should also be wary of those preparing taxes. She said some helpful things to remember when having someone else prepare your taxes include:
- Never sign a blank return. Just like someone should never sign a blank check, signing a blank return gives the preparer free reign over your return.
- Always check credentials. The information you’re giving to a preparer is very sensitive and shouldn’t be given to an untrustworthy person.
- Make sure the tax preparer puts their information on the return. Every preparer should have a PTIN number that’s registered with the IRS, and that number should be included on the return.
Jenkins said people are responsible for what is on their return, but they do prosecute tax scammers.
“If it’s an individual who’s trying to get someone to falsify information so they can get a bigger refund, obviously the taxpayer is responsible for the information on their return to make sure that it’s all complete and accurate,” she said. “But also, of course, we’d be going after the tax preparer who kind of … helped things forward in the wrong direction.”
Jenkins said anyone with an adjusted gross income of $57,000 or less may file their return using software provided by the FreeFile Alliance, which includes software companies such as Intuit (TurboTax) and H & R Block.