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It's tax time, and no one is safe from fraudsters and their scams

Posted Mar 7, 2018 by Karen Graham
Phone scams are nothing new, and they usually focus on the elderly, but during tax season in the U.S. and Canada, the number of scams rises dramatically, and fraudsters are using the latest available technology in an attempt to get your money.
Cybercriminals can find a  safe  space to operate in dark web marketplaces  according to researchers
Cybercriminals can find a "safe" space to operate in dark web marketplaces, according to researchers
Robyn Beck, AFP/File
In both the U.S. and Canada, the season for filing income taxes is very similar, with The Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) tax season starting on February 26, and ending with a deadline on April 30. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) begins the tax season on January 29 and this year has an April 17 deadline.
Both government agencies issue warnings every year, sometimes multiple times, regarding any number of telephone, email, or text message scams going on. And what they tell taxpayers is a no-brainer — Never give out personal information like social security numbers or bank account numbers over the telephone or online.
Tax experts advise people to file early and to file on line as a way to help avoid identity theft  a...
Tax experts advise people to file early and to file on line as a way to help avoid identity theft, as well as miscalculations and other clerical mistakes.
IRS web site
Internal Revenue Service top tax scam for 2018
While the IRS keeps track of the most common tax-related crimes, and it is a long and varied list, this year scammers have gotten creative. Actually, this year's top scam is a twist on an old favorite, reports Business Insider.
For years, scammers have filed fake tax returns using stolen personal information, such as a social security number. However, with identity theft so rampant this past year, from accounts at major retailers and banks being hacked to even email accounts being broken into, scam artists have added a new twist.
The scam artist uses your stolen information to file a tax return, and once the money is deposited into your bank account, the thief takes notice and then, the fun begins. You get a call from someone claiming to be the IRS, saying the funds had been wrongfully allocated into your account and demanding that you return them immediately.
The caller may even threaten criminal fraud charges, an arrest warrant, and to "blacklist" the taxpayer's Social Security Number. Of course, the caller's telephone number on your caller I.D. is legitimate and a Washington D.C. number, and the post office box you are to send the money to looks and sounds official. But the money is going into the hands of a thief.
"It is definitely a nationwide problem," says IRS spokesperson Cecilia Barreda, reports Wired. "When people get this phone call and then they go and look at their bank account and actually do see the money there, that lends a greater credibility to what the person is hearing on the other end of the phone."
Warning from the IRS today.
Warning from the IRS today.
IRS
The Low-down from the IRS
Do not return a phone call from someone claiming to be with the IRS. Instead, individuals should call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040, and businesses should call 800-829-4933.
If the IRS needs to get in touch with a taxpayer, standard practice is to send a letter via the U.S. Postal Service. If you receive an unexpected and suspicious email from the IRS, forward it to phishing@irs.gov. Do not try to call the unknown caller back.
And the U.S. Department of Justice says the IRS never discusses personal tax issues through unsolicited emails or texts, or over social media. Always be wary if you are contacted by someone claiming to be from the IRS who says you owe money.
The Canadian Revenue Agency's top scams for 2018
Canada is also seeing an increase in telephone scams this tax season. "We are getting several calls a day about this, so it's happening quite a bit. I know I've gotten [a scam call] at home as well," said Sgt. Stephanie Burns, head of the Ottawa police organized fraud section, reports CBC News.
Fraudsters have exploited a vulnerability in the Internet Explorer browser that allows phishers to s...
Fraudsters have exploited a vulnerability in the Internet Explorer browser that allows phishers to set up a fake website in a place on the Internet and that will give the user the impression that he has reached a legitimate web page elsewhere. in the Internet.
Public Safety Canada
And like in the U.S., scammers will pose as CRA agents, using emails, phone calls and even text messages to get money and your personal information. The thief will usually say something to the effect that a recent audit has identified discrepancies from past filed taxes. And they will say repayment is required immediately.
And here is the really scary part of these Canadian fraud schemes - they will tell you that failure to pay will result in additional fees, jail time and/or deportation. Fraudsters may also request payment via money service business, pre-paid cards, gift cards, or even in bitcoin., all of them a form of payment the CRA will not accept.
Untitled
Tax Support Canada
CRA spokesperson, Cheryl Yeung, told Global News the CRA will never send you a text message. “Most text message, scam messages will involve links, generally they could also include dollar amounts prompting anybody that receives them to click on it."
The low-down from the CRA
“When you receive a text message like that, make sure that you don’t click on any links and just go ahead and delete it.” She also said that if the CRA does call a taxpayer, they will never be abusive or threatening. And if the CRA emails you, it will never ask you for financial or personal information, or include any exact dollar amounts.
The CRA website says that if a taxpayer is ever in doubt about a dubious phone call, text message or email, do nothing more than call the agency. You won't be penalized for double checking.
If you believe you have become the victim of fraud, you can contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, at 1-888-495-8501, or call the police.