LANSING – With this year’s income tax season coming to a close on Tuesday, the Michigan Department of Treasury urges Michiganders to be vigilant as cybercriminals use new and old tricks to take advantage of taxpayers.
For the 2015 tax year, over 33,000 returns were stopped, preventing more than $70 million in potentially fraudulent refunds from being issued by the state of Michigan.
Cybercriminals typically increase their activity leading up to the April 18 income tax filing deadline through phone scams and email phishing schemes. The criminals try to obtain personal information so they can file income tax returns and claim refunds on behalf of unsuspecting taxpayers or allege taxpayers owe taxes and aggressively demand payment for a quick payout.
“This is the time of year where taxpayers need to be extra alert for possible scams and schemes,” said Deputy Treasurer Glenn White, head of Treasury’s Tax Administration Group. “The Michigan Department of Treasury will never initially contact you through email or phone. Contact is typically done through the mail. ”
Cybercriminals often alter caller ID numbers and emails to make it look like Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service or another official agency is contacting them. The scammers may use employee titles, a person’s name, address and other personal information to sound official.
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 will first 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.
Taxpayers who don’t owe taxes or don’t think they owe taxes should hang up immediately if they receive one of these calls. For individuals who owe taxes or think they do, they can call Treasury at 517-636-4486 to find out their account balance information.
Taxpayers who have received a call or email from a scammer should report the case to the IRS through the web or by calling 800-366-4484.
Tax-Related Identity Theft Protections
In an effort to protect Michigan taxpayers, Treasury continues to implement security measures to stop tax-related identity theft. As a result, some individual income tax returns may be selected for identity confirmation.
If an individual income tax return has been selected for identity confirmation, the taxpayer will receive a letter from Treasury asking them to confirm their identity by completing a short online quiz or submitting paperwork to confirm their identity. After passing the quiz, tax refunds will be issued in about a month.
To learn more about Michigan’s individual income tax, go to www.michigan.gov/incometax.