The tax filing season means it's tax scam season, and this year the scams are expected to be worse than ever, despite new anti-fraud measures enacted by the IRS. So the agency is warning about the top 3 tax scams to watch for in 2016.
1. Fraudulent Filing
Last year Kathy Laumann fell victim to tax scam number one: Someone else filed under her Social Security number and claimed her tax refund before she could. The IRS then rejected her return, and she had to prove who she was. That led to a four-month nightmare to finally get her correct refund.
"It's very definitely not, 'Oh we trust you,'" she said.
IRS spokesperson Jennifer Jenkins tells us the agency has instituted new safeguards this year that should raise red flags if someone files in your name from a different address or with a different employer. But she says the best thing you can do is file early, before a scammer (who may have your SSN from a recent data breach) tries filing under your name. If you put off filing, your chances of becoming the victim of false filing increase, Jenkins said.
2. IRS Phishing Email
This tax scam involves an email from the IRS, or one that at least it appears to be from the IRS.
The email says, "Click here for the latest on your refund," or something similar.
But it's a phishing scam, designed to get you to enter your Social Security number. Even if you simply click the link, you can invite malware into your PC.
"The IRS does not contact taxpayers by email, especially to request them to download files or click on links," Jenkins said.
3. IRS Phone Scam
The IRS phone scam is the most common of this kind of scam.
The caller claims to be with the IRS or the Treasury Department and tells you that you are behind on your tax bill and threatens you with arrest unless you pay money immediately. Thousands, if not millions, of Americans have received these calls.
Martin Lemmink got the call last year and almost fell for it.
"He gave me a name and stated that he was from the U.S. Treasury and said I owed money," Lemmink said.
Jenkins with the IRS says there is one thing you need to know: "The IRS would not be threatening immediate arrest or deportation or something like that."
If you get that kind of call, hang up.
The good news for 2016, according to Jenkins, is that most people by now have heard warnings about the IRS phone scam. In addition, the agency hopes to cut down on fraudulent filing this year by red-flagging returns that don't look similar to your past returns.
That way, the agency hopes to cut down on fraud this year, so you don't waste your money.