Being contacted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can cause concern for any taxpayer, but imagine receiving a telephone call and hearing this:
“This prerecorded message is to notify you that the IRS has found fraud and misconduct on your tax return. This needs to be resolved immediately, and it’s very important that I hear from you as soon as possible or a legal action will be taken against you.”
Most people are quick to spot the call as a fake since the IRS doesn’t threaten taxpayers by telephone, emails, or text messages—or issue arrest warrants. But any scam can work if you aren’t paying close attention.
Remember these guidelines:
If something seems fishy, hit the brakes. Wait until your emotions have settled and research what’s going on. Fraudsters use tight deadlines to try to force you into a rash decision.
Never call back a number in a message asking for sensitive information, like in the example above. Don’t follow a link in an unsolicited email or text message either. Go to the website of the company or organization, or call their main phone number, and get in touch with them through direct channels.
When in doubt, do an internet search for the company or organization involved, followed by the word “scam.”
If you think you’ve been a victim of ID theft, put a freeze on your credit files if you don’t plan to borrow money soon—or place a fraud alert on your credit reports. The freeze prevents any new credit from being approved, but you can freeze and unfreeze your credit file for free. The fraud alert notifies lenders and creditors that they should take extra steps to verify your identity before extending credit.
Contact one of the 3 credit bureaus to request a fraud alert or credit freeze (Equifax at 800-525-6285, Experian at 888-397-3742, or TransUnion at 800-680-7289).