CONCORD, NH — Ahead of Consumer Protection Week, March 3-9, 2019, Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald urges New Hampshire residents to take added precautions to protect themselves from IRS-related scams which tend to increase during tax season. In 2017, the Attorney General’s office received 471 reports related to IRS scams. In 2018, there were 984 such reports.
The Attorney General offers strategies individuals can employ today to better protect themselves and those most susceptible to scams including education, heightened awareness, and practicing added vigilance when answering unknown phone calls.
Individuals most commonly report receiving unsolicited calls fraudulently claiming to be from the IRS and demanding payment for delinquent taxes. The callers typically ask for some sort of immediate payment and threaten arrest, wage garnishment or other forms of legal process to coerce the payment.
The IRS continues to caution taxpayers that, with very few exceptions, their first contact with a delinquent taxpayer will not be a phone call but will be in the form of a letter from the IRS sent through the mail. The IRS also does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information and it never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the phone.
A second prevalent IRS-related scam being reported is tax-related identity theft. This can occur when the perpetrator uses a stolen Social Security number to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund. Often, the victim is unaware that the theft has happened until the person files his or her return and only then discovers that a fraudulent return had already been filed and the refund sent to the thief.
The Attorney General recommends taking these steps to better protect yourself against scams:
Hang up the phone immediately if you receive any threatening or demanding calls
Refrain from calling the number provided in a voice message or otherwise as it is likely a sophisticated call center designed to deceive the caller into believing it is a governmental office
Do not engage with the caller
Trust your instincts and treat each unsolicited call with increased skepticism, specifically calls, emails or other online solicitations asking for personal identification or financial information
Individuals should never provide personal information to anyone without first verifying the source of the inquiry
Take steps to inform and discuss the dangers of these scams with individuals who may be susceptible to these sophisticated scams
If you become a victim of tax-related identity theft, you should:
File a report with your local police
File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.identitytheft.gov or call the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338
Contact the IRS and complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit
Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to freeze or place a “fraud alert” on your credit:
Attorney General MacDonald also offers the following advice about how to reduce the risk of identity theft:
Don’t carry your Social Security card or any document with your Social Security Number on it
Don’t give out your SSN just because a business asks for it – only do so when it is absolutely necessary
Secure your printed personal information at home by placing it in a locked container or in a bank safe deposit box
Check your credit report annually with one of the three free agencies listed above. You are entitled to one free report each year from each of the three agencies
Protect your personal computers by using firewalls and anti-spam/virus software. Update your security patches and regularly change your passwords for all accounts, selecting strong password for each account
Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail, or on the Internet unless you have verified who will be receiving that information