Now that tax season is in full swing, it’s time to be especially wary of taxpayer scams.
I began thinking about this after I got a seemingly urgent warning from TurboTax stating “Action Required: Review and Sign Your Document #1035322.” Then, under the banner which said “TurboTax sent you a document to review and sign, there was a “Review Document” button. Supposedly, I needed to docusign a Payment Release form for my tax refund, signed by TurboTax and powered by DocuSign. Then, the email advised me:
“Do Not Share This Email: This email contains a secure link to DocuSign. Please do not share this email, link, or access code with others.” Or I could use an Alternate Signing Method, where I could visit DocuSign.com, click “Access Documents,” and enter a long security code.
Moreover, for reassurance, the document provided some helpful information about DocuSign if I wasn’t familiar with it, telling me in an “About DocuSign” section that I could “Sign documents electronically in just minutes. It’s safe, secure, and legally binding. Whether you’re in an office, at home, on-the-go — or even across the globe — DocuSign provides a professional trusted solution for Digital Transaction ManagementTM.”
Now all that is true about DocuSign. You can even get a similar message if you go to the real DocuSign website at www.docusign.com. Thus, this email could easily lead an unwary victim to respond to what is really a scam, presumably to get someone’s personal identity or launch a malware attack to get their money. I’m not sure, since I didn’t click anything, because I have learned to recognize likely scams.
One way to tell something is a scam is to look at the email of the sender, or if you hover your mouse over the link you are supposed to click, you will see where the link really goes — although this is not always a guarantee, since scammers can make it appear that it is a real link. But in this case there were some obvious signs of a scam.
The first giveaway is that the email did not come from Turbotax, but from someone named “dean” at a domain for “timerifl.com”. And not only was this a different domain, but when I later entered that domain name in a browser, I got back the message: “this site can’t be reached”. Then, when I checked where the “review document” and other links were going, they were clearly not going to Turbotax.
In short, just as you have to careful not to click links in documents, unless you trust the sender and expect them to contact you about something, since the emails of people you know can be hacked, you have to be especially cautious about emails or phone calls related to filing taxes. That’s because scammers are taking advantage of tax season to send what seem like official documents or make seemingly official calls about your taxes.
In fact, the IRS has a listing of warnings about all kinds of tax scams, which you can find on the IRS site, such this warning about phone scams, which has links to other tax scams. Here’s the link to the article https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/taxpayers-beware-tax-season-is-prime-time-for-phone-scams, which is featured below.
Tax Tip 2022–15, January 27, 2022
With the new tax season starting this week, the IRS reminds taxpayers to be aware that criminals continue to make aggressive calls posing as IRS agents in hopes of stealing taxpayer money or personal information.
Here are some telltale signs of a tax scam along with actions taxpayers can take if they receive a scam call.
The IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill 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 taxpayers the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
- Call unexpectedly about a tax refund.
Taxpayers who receive these phone calls should:
- Record the number and then hang up the phone immediately.
- Report the call to TIGTA using their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting form or by calling 800–366–4484.
- Report the number to firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to put “IRS Phone Scam” in the subject line.
The author is internationally published author and film producer, Gini Graham Scott, PhD, who has published over 200 books, 50 for traditional publishers and 150 for her own company Changemakers Publishing, specializing in books on self-help, popular business, and social issues. She is the author of The Big Con: Scams Targeting Writers, the Victims, and How to Avoid Becoming a Victim and I Was Scammed about all types of scams and how to avoid them. She has written and executive produced 18 feature films and documentaries, featured on the www.changemakersproductionsfilms.com website. Her website for writing is at www.changemakerspublishingandwriting.com.
For more information or to set up an interview, contact:
Executive Assistant to Gini Graham Scott
Changemakers Publishing and Writing
San Ramon, CA 94583. (925) 804–6333