DOC IN A BOX: Beware, tax season brings scams

Stephen Bach
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Stephen Bach is the owner and chief of surgery at The Digital Docs in Marblehead.

It’s like Christmas to scammers looking to steal both your money and your personal information.  Indeed, the IRS has warned of widespread attempts by fraudsters to get electronic filing identification numbers, which could be used to file bogus returns or steal your tax returns.

Here, then, are some simple ways to stay safe when filing your taxes online:

Pay attention to detail

The devil’s in the details, as they say. Read any emails you get on tax-related subjects with care and suspicion, and avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments — especially if they come in unsolicited emails.

(Also, do NOT give out sensitive personal info like Social Security numbers, tax ID numbers or banking information via email.)

Next, watch for misspelled web addresses, a hallmark of phishing sites. You always want to be sure you are on the correct site, especially when filing electronically or using online tax software.  

For example, does the web address shown in your browser actually say “,” or something like “” or “”?

Stay one step ahead of crooks

One way is to avoid public wifi connections when working with personal or financial info. Because these are easy to fake, you’d be opening the door to cyber thieves.

If you receive a suspicious email or phone call claiming to be from a government agency, bank or bill collector, be sure to look up the organization’s contact information. Surprise claims of missed payments (or payouts) are big red flags to look out for.

Finally, keep in mind

The IRS will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment with a specific payment method, like a credit card.  They’ll typically send you a bill if you owe them money.
  • Demand that you pay taxes now without giving you the chance to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Threaten to bring in local police or any other law enforcement to arrest you for not paying.  These sorts of “rough arm” tactics are typical of scam artists.

If you’re ever in doubt, do not hesitate, call the IRS directly.

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