The Internal Revenue Services announced Thursday that once again, identity theft and tax scams are circulating, earning the scam a place on the IRS’s “Dirty Dozen” list.
Despite a “steep drop in tax-related identity theft” in recent years, the scam, according to the IRS, is still serious enough to make the list in an effort to warn taxpayers away from danger.
IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said it’s important for taxpayers to make sure they protect their sensitive tax and financial data.
“The IRS and the Security Summit partners in the states and the private sector have joined forces to improve our defenses against tax-related identity theft, sharply reducing the number of victims,” Rettig said, “but we encourage taxpayers to continue to be on the lookout for identity theft schemes, including email phishing attempts and other tax scams.”
Each year, the IRS makes its “Dirty Dozen” list which is meant to outline scams citizens can encounter during any time of the year, not just tax season though most of them become more prevalent around this time.
According to the IRS, identity theft considered tax-related often happens when someone uses a Social Security or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) they’ve stolen, and then uses that information to file taxes and claim a refund.
In an effort to combat this issue, the IRS, the states and the nation’s private-sector tax industry started ground work in 2015 as the “Security Summit” to fight against identity theft and find ways to combat the problem and safeguard taxpayer information.
“These safeguards include expanded information sharing among the Summit partners as well as strengthened internal IRS controls to guard against fraudulent tax returns,” states a release from the IRS.
Though they are trying to fight the issue, the IRS also warns that most scammers, when they realize their prey has caught on, will change up tactics to keep the scam going.
The IRS has released some tips for taxpayers and tax professionals which can help keep scammers and identify theft at bay. This includes always using security software with firewall and antivirus protection, and learning to recognize and avoid “phishing” emails or “threatening” phone calls or text messages.
“Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails and threatening phone calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations such as banks, credit card companies and government organizations, including the IRS,” states IRS documents. “Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails. Invest in good anti-spyware and anti-malware software protection.”
Finally, the last thing the IRS wants to encourage taxpayers to do is make sure they keep their personal data protected.
“Don’t routinely carry a Social Security card, and make sure tax records are secure. Treat personal information like cash; don’t leave it lying around,” states a recommendation from the IRS.
Anyone who needs to fight identity theft or anyone who wants more information on how to avoid the serious issue can find more information under the identity theft section on the IRS.gov website.