Treasury: Resolve to be ready for tax scams in 2019

The new year has arrived, which means tax filing season is right around the corner.

It also means cybercriminals likely will be lurking, looking to make off with those well-deserved tax refunds.

With that in mind, the Michigan Department of Treasury is asking taxpayers guard themselves against being bullied or fooled into losing what they deserve to get back in 2019.

Cybercriminals typically increase their activity in the first part of the year through phone scams and email phishing schemes. These scammers try to obtain personal information using different tricks and tactics, often 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 aggressively demand payment for a quick payout.

“Taxpayers need to be extra alert for possible scams and schemes during this time of year and throughout the income tax filing season,” said Deputy State Treasurer Glenn White, head of Treasury’s Tax Administration Group. “When taxpayers proactively look for scams, they are less likely to be a victim of a tax-related identity theft and other cybercriminal activities.”

The state Treasury office 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 by 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 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. Scammers may even use employee titles, a person’s name, address and other personal information to sound official.

Taxpayers who are contacted by a scammer should immediately cease the call or delete the email.

They also should report the case to the IRS through the web or by calling 800-366-4484.

To learn more about tax-related identity theft, go online to www.michigan.gov/identitytheft.

Since 2016, the state Treasury Department’s increased security measures have protected more than 4,500 taxpayers who confirmed their identity was stolen and used to request state of Michigan income tax refunds. This prevented more than $19 million from being distributed to scammers.