It’s bad enough that the deadline for filing federal tax returns is fast approaching, but now the National Crime Prevention Council warns taxpayers to be on the lookout for scam artists posing as employees of the Internal Revenue Service. These fake IRS officials are actually identity thieves looking to steal personal information.
Several versions of the scam have been seen in the area in recent years. Most of these cases involved callers identifying themselves as IRS employees and asking for bank account information.
Don’t be taken in by such calls. Never give out your personal information over the phone or Internet unless you have initiated the contact. Government agencies and companies do not communicate about personal information via email, or ask for passwords, personal identification numbers or other private information about financial accounts unless you contact them.
According to the NCPC, the IRS and U.S. Treasury Department have reported an increase in “phishing” scams this year involving fraudulent spammers who send emails that use the IRS logo in an effort to trick taxpayers into providing their Social Security number and other personal information.
Even though these emails look real — coming from such addresses as email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org — they are not. Scammers use the victim’s financial and personal information to open lines of credit, apply for loans and file false tax returns.
The NCPC says identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America, but this type scam can be prevented by taking the following precautions:
Check your credit records once a year with the three major credit bureaus. You are entitled to one free credit report from each credit bureau every year.
Report suspicious activity right away. Alert the credit bureau to the possible fraud, close the account you think has been compromised, file a police report in case you need to provide proof of the crime and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at its website: www.consumer.gov/idtheft.
For more information about identity theft and how you can prevent yourself from becoming a victim, visit the NCPC’s Web page at www.ncpc.org.