In tax season, beware of scams, cybercriminals
New year. Same old tax scams.
As tax season approaches, the Michigan Department of Treasury again is warning residents to be ready for those phishing and — how old-fashioned — even calling in efforts to separate taxpayers from the money they deserve from 2017.
Cybercriminals typically increase their activity in the first part of the year through telephone and email schemes, trying to obtain personal information so they can file income tax returns and claim refunds on behalf of unsuspecting taxpayers.
Some scammers may also claim a taxpayer owes taxes and demand payment, preying on some of the most vulnerable in our communities.
“When taxpayers proactively look for scams, they are less likely to be a victim of a tax-related identity theft and other cybercriminal activities,” said Deputy State Treasurer Glenn White, head of Treasury’s Tax Administration Group.
Though we’ve printed this before, it bears repeating — the state Treasury will never:
— Initiate a phone call or email to ask for personal information.
— Call or email to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, Treasury first will send a bill through the U.S. mail to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
— Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying;
— Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
— Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
Cybercriminals often alter caller ID numbers and emails to make it look like the state Treasury Department, the Internal Revenue Service or another official agency is contacting a taxpayer, state officials said. Scammers may use employee titles, a person’s name, address and other personal information to sound official.
Those contacted by a scammer should immediately cease the call or delete the email and report the case to the IRS through the web or by calling 800-366-4484.
In 2017, the department’s increased security measures protected more than 4,000 taxpayers who confirmed their identity was stolen and used to request Michigan income tax refunds. This prevented more than $16 million from being distributed to scammers.
To learn more about tax-related identity theft, go to www.michigan.gov/identitytheft.