COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — IRS criminal investigators in Colorado are sending a warning about tax fraud as more and more people begin filing their taxes this year.
Armed with our sensitive information that was likely stolen from an increasing numbers of targeted data breaches, investigators tell me tax scammers are prepared to come after us like never before.
”Unfortunately because tax season brings the refunds and it has such a high dollar amount the fraudsters seem to come out of the woodwork every year,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Towle from the IRS Criminal Investigation, Denver Field Office.
Towle has spent years working to track down and hold tax scammers and fraudsters accountable. He says trying to stop these crimes is so difficult because unsuspecting victims continue to be targeted year after year.
”If people weren’t getting deceived then the fraudsters would probably move on to something else, but since they are able to deceive people they continue year after year to come after you,” he said.
Despite the effort to get the word out, IRS imposter scams continue to scare people into bad decisions.
”The IRS doesn’t do that. They don’t send emails, they don’t text message you. Everything is done via mail," Towle said. "I represent criminal investigation which is the law enforcement arm of the IRS and we are the ones who have the authority to do the arrests and I assure you we don’t send a text message 24 hours beforehand asking you for money.”
But Towle says the newest and most concerning attack from fraudsters stems from cyberattacks and data breaches. Hackers are able to get into the systems of tax preparers which allows them to reach out to you pretending to be someone you’d normally trust.
”The email comes and it says your name, it says it’s your trusted CPA firm, it’s your trusted preparer. So, It gives more legitimacy that this is an email that’s from a trusted source that’s directly to you. It looks way more authentic because it’s targeting you specifically,” said Towle.
That’s why tax fraud investigators say it might be worth a few extra minutes to follow up on any unexpected texts, emails, calls, or letters you get that are tax related. The best way to do that is not to trust any phone numbers or emails associated with those notes– but to find contact information elsewhere and reach out directly to business or entity for answers.
”The old fashioned phone call. If you call up and say hey are you guys starting to send out mailers or emails asking for the information? When they say no, you immediately know it was a fraudulent email,” Towle said.
Filing your taxes early can be an important step to avoid identity theft. Unfortunately, investigators say every year people go to file their taxes and someone else who has their sensitive information does it first. Tax fraud investigators say when this happens there are important steps you’ll want to follow through on to report it and to get help.
If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft, visit the Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft to know what steps to take:
Taxpayers who receive unsolicited emails or social media attempts to gather information that appear to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, should forward the message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you need more information on how to report fraud:
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