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Impersonating an IRS agent may not be at the top of the list of smart moves people make, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. The IRS is out with a warning to consumers to be on the watch for con artists that say they’re with the agency, and accept tax payments in its name.

Con artists tend to pick up the pace in January, just as tax season starts. One common scam is to solicit tax payments via email. But the IRS notes it does not communicate with consumers via email, and any email received by taxpayers using an IRS address should be immediately deleted.

Some other scams to watch out for include:

  • Watch out for phone calls from phony IRS employees asking for your Social Security number or bank account number. The IRS says that, like its email policy, the agency won’t call you asking for any personal financial information. Virtually all of its public outreach is done through mail, often registered mail. Scammers often call consumers and tell them they can get a cash rebate if they file their taxes early. They’ll claim they can pop the rebate money into your bank account via direct deposit. But the IRS will never gather the information needed for direct deposit over the telephone.
  • Don’t fall for audit scams. Another common scam is tax fraudsters emailing consumers and telling them their tax returns are oing to be audited. “Audit” emails often work pretty well for these crooks, because any thought of an audit tends to get a direct response for taxpayers. But don’t fall for it. The IRS never sends audit notices through email either.
  • “Check” on checks. Another ploy from tax scam artists is to call and check to see whether consumers have cashed their tax refund checks. The goal is to get you to ask for bank account information over the phone to verify the payment has gone through. Again, don’t fall for this scam. The IRS never solicits bank account information over the phone.

Its tax season, and you’ll need to have your guard up against scam artists purporting to be from the IRS. Identity thieves are trying to pry personal financial data out of you – and it’s up to you to stop them in their tracks.

Image by alykat, via Flickr

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