What the Tech: Beware of tax scams after filing deadline

Imagine receiving a phone call with a stern voice on the other end, claiming to be from the IRS and accusing you of willful fraud. They assert that you owe unpaid taxes and threaten immediate arrest.

Thousands of U.S. taxpayers fall for these scam calls every year and although most people can identify a scam call once they hear the person on the other end speak, the threats scare people into giving out their personal information or paying the scammer in gift cards.

Despite the absurdity of these claims, tax scams are alarmingly effective. Last year, over $300 million was lost to government impersonation scams, with many victims receiving calls from individuals posing as IRS agents.

These scammers are adept at using spoofing technology to falsify caller ID information, making it seem as though the IRS is indeed calling.

Often, the caller will have a foreign accent and will attempt to instill fear, pressuring you to purchase gift cards while they remain on the line as you head to the store.

The best defense against these fraudulent calls is to simply hang up.

Additionally, be vigilant about scam emails that may appear to be from the IRS or tax preparation software companies like TurboTax. These emails often contain subject lines prompting you to update filing details or claim a refund.

Opening these emails or clicking on any links can lead to malware being installed on your computer.

An Internal Revenue Service spokesperson confirms on very rare occasions someone may receive a phone call from someone with the I.R.S. but that it is “super rare”. If the department does need to contact you, they will do so through a mailed letter, and in urgent cases, via certified mail.

Scammers typically avoid using the U.S. Postal Service, not out of fear of being caught, but because it incurs a cost, whereas phone calls are virtually free.

The best option for dealing with the I.R.S. is directly through the website.

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