Don’t Be Fooled by Fake IRS Calls or Emails

(The Washington Post ) -

The 2018 tax season officially opened Monday.

And with the season comes the scams.

One scam, which often targets seniors, just won’t die. It involves criminals pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service and scaring people into sending them money for fictitious tax bills.

My godmother recently got such a call from a man who said he was calling from the IRS. He claimed that she owed back taxes and that if she didn’t pay she would be arrested. She immediately called me in a panic. Although she was pretty sure it was a scam, she still wanted to double-check.

I assured her it was not a legitimate call. The IRS will not call you and demand payment for a tax bill. Some scammers are even telling folks they have to pay the bill with bitcoin.

The IRS issued a warning earlier this month to employers about another tax fraud scheme. In this phishing scam, cybercriminals con payroll personnel or other employees into disclosing payroll information. The fraudsters send emails pretending to be executives requesting copies of W-2 forms for employees, which, of course, contain addresses, Social Security numbers, income and withholdings. The criminals use the information to file fraudulent tax returns or sell the data on the dark Web.

This week is Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week. The Federal Trade Commission has partnered with a number of organizations to host a series of free webinars and Twitter chats to help get out the word about tax scams.

Here’s what’s happening this week:

Tuesday, 2:30 p.m. The FTC, AARP Fraud Watch Network, AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration are hosting a webinar on tax identity theft and IRS impostor scams.

Wednesday, 11 a.m. The FTC and the Department of Veterans Affairs are co-hosting a Twitter chat for service members, veterans and their families on how to minimize the risk of tax identity theft. Join the conversation at #VeteranIDTheft.

Thursday, 1, 3 p.m. The FTC and the Identity Theft Resource Center will co-host a Twitter chat about protecting yourself against tax-related identity theft by looking out for the warning signs of a scam. You can join the conversation using the hashtag #IDTheftChat.

Grandparents, check if you’re eligible for this tax credit.

If you’re caring for a grandchild, even if you’re 65 or older, be sure to check whether you qualify for the earned income tax credit (EITC), which was created to help those who work but have modest incomes.

The EITC is a refundable tax credit, meaning you can get money back even if you owe no tax or the credit is more than the amount of tax owed. Eligibility for the EITC is determined in part by how much you earn and the size of your family, specifically whether you have qualifying children in your household.