A business owner's investment of time, resources, and efforts should never be lost to some fraudulent scam. It can happen so easily because many entrepreneurs are so busy following their dreams that they don't track the latest schemes of those who are dishonest.

Let's talk about phishing, and I'm not talking about the kind with bait and a rod. Here is a simple tip from the IRS: Stop and Think Before Clicking. Taxpayers need to be wary of clicking on strange emails and websites.

Phishing is a scam typically carried out with the help of an unsolicited email or a fake website that models a legitimate site. It then prompts you to provide valuable personal and financial information that criminals can use to steal your information.

Know these two things: the IRS will never ask you for personal information over email, or call you on the phone demanding money.

If you receive an email claiming to be from the IRS that contains a request for personal information, here's how you protect yourself:

Don't reply.

Don't open any attachments. They can contain malicious code that may infect your computer or mobile phone or tablet. 

Don't click on any links. Visit the IRS identity protection page if you clicked on links in a suspicious email or website and entered confidential information.

Know that the IRS will never send you an email about a bill or refund out of the blue. If you receive an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), report it by forwarding it to phishing@irs.gov.
Don't forward scanned images because this removes valuable information. Please forward the email as is, then delete it.

Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents are a big problem for many taxpayers. Scammers are able to alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names, bogus IRS badge numbers and often leave "urgent" callback requests. They prey on the most vulnerable people, such as the elderly, newly arrived immigrants and those whose first language is not English. Scammers have been known to impersonate agents from IRS Criminal Investigation as well.

"If someone calls unexpectedly claiming to be from the IRS with aggressive threats if you don't pay immediately, it's a scam artist calling," IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has said. "The first IRS contact with taxpayers is usually through the mail. Taxpayers have rights, and this is not how we do business."

The IRS will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

If you receive a suspicious phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, follow the steps below and record the employee's name, badge number, call back number and caller ID if available. Call 1-800-366-4484 to determine if the caller is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you.

If the person calling you is an IRS employee, call them back. If not, report the incident to TIGTA and to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov (Subject: 'IRS Phone Scam')

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here's what you should do:

  • If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
  • If you know you don't owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484 or at www.tigta.gov.
  • If you've been targeted by this scam, you can also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their "FTC Complaint Assistant" at FTC.gov.

Remember, the IRS does not use email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue involving bills or refunds. For more information on reporting tax scams, go to www.irs.gov and type "scam" in the search box. Your tax preparer can also help you report these crimes, giving you more time to focus on what you do best - running your company.