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Don’t Be a Victim! Beware of Scams Targeting Taxpayers This Tax Season

Bruce D. Berndt

March 2, 2015

With the rise of identity theft and tax and financial fraud, it is critical that we all remain vigilant about protecting our sensitive personal and financial information—especially during tax season. Being alert to any attempts by criminals to intercept your information is one important way you can protect yourself. The IRS recently issued the following alerts about a new crop of tax season scams. Take a few moments to review this information to keep yourself safe from scammers looking to target taxpayers.

  1. An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, is making the rounds throughout the country. According to the IRS website, callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.

    

Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are threatened with arrest, deportation, or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Alternatively, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn't answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.

    The IRS urges taxpayers to note that they will never: 1) call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill; 2) demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe; 3) require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card; 4) ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone; or 5) threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

  2. Be on guard against “phishing”—fake emails or websites looking to steal personal information. The IRS will not send taxpayers emails about a bill or refund without contacting them by mail first. Don’t click on an email link claiming to be from the IRS unless you are expecting the IRS to send you an email based on previous contact you have had with them.

  3. Taxpayers need to watch out for identity theft especially around tax time. The IRS continues to aggressively pursue the criminals that file fraudulent returns using someone else’s Social Security Number. The IRS is making progress on this front, but taxpayers still need to be extremely careful and do everything they can to avoid becoming a victim.

  4. Be on guard against groups masquerading as charitable organizations to attract donations from unsuspecting contributors. If you want to contribute to a charity, take a few extra minutes to ensure that the organization in question is actually a currently eligible charitable organization. Be especially wary of charities with names that are similar to familiar or nationally known organizations.

These are just some of the current tax season scams that you should be aware of. You can visit the IRS website to see additional scam alerts. If you have any questions, or you encounter any suspicious activity related to your financial or tax information, contact our office. We are committed to helping you protect yourself and your financial health.

   

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