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It’s that time again, when we all dread finding out if we owe money or not and cybercriminals are banking on it with a wide range of scams that impersonate the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

You’d think, by now, people would be savvy to emails and phone calls purporting to be from the IRS saying “you owe money!” or “call us immediately!” The IRS has posted details about phishing attacks that have impersonated them for years (here’s one from 2014 that reads like it’s a relatively new scam) and yet, individuals continue to fall for these scams – mostly due to not knowing how the IRS contacts taxpayers.

The IRS has taken steps to not just let you know what to expect should they reach out, but they even go as far as to spell out the types of tax scams of which you should be mindful.

Most of the current scams revolve around simple premises that are designed to get your attention and strike a little fear into you. According to Nerdwallet, some of these premises sound like the following:

  • “We’ll cancel your Social Security number”
  • “This is the Bureau of Tax Enforcement, and we’re putting a lien or levy on your assets”
  • “If you don’t call us back, you’ll be arrested”

These scams are usually intent on stealing personal data or payment details. Below are a few things you can do to ensure you’re protected:

  1. Pay attention to how they contact you – the IRS doesn’t call, text, email, leave voicemails, or reach out to you via social media. They send you a letter in the mail. That’s it.
  2. They don’t ask for payment over the phone – Not credit cards, and most certainly not gift cards!
  3. They can’t arrest you, etc. – There is a taxpayer’s bill of rights, an appeal process, etc. Jumping right to arresting you is downright foolishness.

Remain vigilant and scrutinize any unsolicited communication, its sender and call to action. This will help you determine whether it is a scam.