Protect yourself from IRS tax scams


Like a bad dream, tax season is upon us once again. With two extra days to file your personal return this year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is warning against scammers that prey upon trusting Americans.

Earlier this month, the IRS announced that the 2012 due date for personal income tax return filings would be Tuesday, April 17. The traditional deadline — April 15th — falls on a Sunday. Also taken into consideration is the District of Columbia holiday — Emancipation Day — which falls on Monday, April 16.

Therefore, the extra two days to file your personal tax return.

If you are surfing the Internet for the official site of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, do not mistakenly click on www.IRS.com. This website is privately owned by Banks.com and is not related to the governmental entity Americans have grown to love and respect.

Despite yearly warnings and stories of the unsuspecting falling victim to scams, the Internal Revenue Service is once again reminding taxpayers to be alert for predators who may contact them by email, telephone, fax or regular mail pretending to be from the IRS. They warn that “many of these scams fraudulently use the Internal Revenue Service name or logo as a lure to make the communication more authentic and enticing.”

In the form of a fake IRS email, this scam is known as phishing.

According to WHOIS, a widely used Internet record listing service that identifies domain owners and how to contact them, the IRS.com domain name was registered in 1999 by the seemingly legitimate Banks.com Inc. The banner headline on the homepage suggests an official association with the real Internal Revenue Service: “US Tax Center — Tax Information You Can Trust.”

The Internal Revenue Service, like all U.S. government agencies, uses the “.gov” top-level domain name and can be found at www.IRS.gov.

The IRS.com website is not affiliated with the federal government or the Internal Revenue Service despite the misleading “US Tax Center” headline. While the U.S. Tax Center seemingly appears legitimate, they are impossible to contact, offering no phone number or email address and only an online “contact us” form.

Several “how-to” related articles redirect to websites offering services that could make consumers deceptively believe they are dealing with the real Internal Revenue Service.

The goal of scammers is to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal information such as name, address, date of birth, Social Security, credit card or PIN numbers and other confidential information. With this information, scammers steal money or commit identity theft. Personal information should never be revealed until verification is made upon a legitimate request.

The Internal Revenue Service advises taxpayers on how to respond when they receive a suspicious email, telephone call, fax or letter:

1. The IRS does not request detailed personal and financial information like credit card or PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information.

2. The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through email and will not send a message about your tax account. If you receive an email from someone claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service or directing you to an IRS site; do not reply to the message, click on any of the links, or open any of the attachments.

3. The official IRS website is http://www.irs.gov. Do not be confused or misled by websites claiming to be the Internal Revenue Service but ending in .com, .net, .org, .us, or designations other than .gov. If you discover a website claiming to be the IRS but suspect it is bogus, do not provide personal information and report it to the IRS immediately.

4. If you receive an email, telephone call, fax or letter from an individual claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service, but suspect they are not, contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to determine their legitimacy.

5. Become proactive in shutting down scams and prevent others from being victimized. Report scams and learn what to do if you have been victimized at http://www.irs.gov, keyword “phishing,” or email the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.

Consumers who believe they have been victimized by an IRS scammer or identity thief should visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website at http://www.OnGuardOnline.gov. The Internal Revenue Service is one of the site sponsors.

With most returns being filed by the April 17 deadline, the IRS said it expects to receive more than 144 million individual tax returns this year.

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