Tax season is a prime opportunity for scammers to steal your personal and financial information as well as your money. Scammers try to trick people in multiple ways, from phishing emails eliciting confidential information to phone calls demanding immediate payment or threatening hefty punishments including jail time if no payment is made right away. Here’s what you need to know about these tax season scams so you can protect yourself:

The IRS will never contact you over the phone demanding a payment be made without first contacting you by mail to notify you of any outstanding debt. The same goes for emails and text messages. If you do owe money to the IRS, expect to see a bill notifying you of the amount before any attempts to collect the money are made. The IRS will also allow you to appeal your tax debt before requesting payment. Anyone demanding immediate payment is likely not a legitimate IRS employee. Additionally the IRS does not accept payments made by gift card. This is a common request made by scammers. The IRS will only ask you to make a payment to the U.S. Treasury, never to a third party, or any other institution. Scammers attempt to threaten people into paying outstanding debts by saying you will immediately be arrested or deported for non-payment. While you could be sent to jail for other tax offenses such as tax evasion or fraud, the IRS attempts to collect debts in other ways, not through jail time.

Phishing emails and phone calls by scammers attempting to “verify information” from your tax return on behalf of the IRS are also common. Do not provide any personal information over the phone or through email, as the IRS would not ask for sensitive information in such ways. The IRS may visit you in person, but they would likely notify you of the visit by mail beforehand. In this case, you should ask for two forms of credentials to verify their identity – an HSPD-12 card and a pocket commission, and you should call the agency by phone to confirm their identity as well. Scammers also claim to be collecting debts owed for a “Federal Student Tax” which is not a legitimate tax. Finally, the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel is a common organization scammers pose as in order to collect personal information from taxpayers, however this organization does not have access to taxpayers information and would not ask for it.

It’s always prudent to verify requests for personal information before proceeding, but especially during tax season it is especially wise to be aware of the dangers. Don’t be afraid to ask for confirmation of debts owed to the IRS by mail or to verify any caller’s identity by calling the organization yourself. If the request is legitimate the caller should not have a problem with you calling the agency yourself. Watch out for red flags this tax season, and for more information, give us a call.