Taxpayers beware: IRS shares filing scams
With tax filing season in full swing, authorities are reminding the public to be on the lookout for scammers and offering up some tips to help keep them from becoming a victim.
“The ‘Dirty Dozen’ that the main office of the IRS puts out every year are pretty much the 12 most common scams and pitfalls that taxpayers need to be aware of,” Scott Schneider, spokesman with the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service’s Tampa office, said on Thursday.
Some of the highlights of the 2015 Dirty Dozen include phone scams, phishing scams or attempts to gain personal information from people using fake IRS contacts or phone tax preparer schemes, identity theft and tax related fraud, return preparer fraud, refund fraud or ID theft, and inflated refund claims.
Phone scams top this year’s list because they have been a persistent and pervasive problem for many taxpayers for months. According to IRS officials, scammers are able to alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and bogus IRS badge numbers to appear official.
Officials reported that these scammers typically leave “urgent” callback requests and even threaten police arrest, deportation, license revocation and other things. They often prey on the most vulnerable people, such as the elderly, newly arrived immigrants and those whose first language is not English.
“If someone calls unexpectedly claiming to be from the IRS with aggressive threats if you dont pay immediately, it’s a scam artist calling,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “The first IRS contact with taxpayers is usually through the mail. Taxpayers have rights – this is not how we do business.”
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has allegedly received reports of roughly 290,000 contacts since October 2013. It has become aware of nearly 3,000 victims who have paid over $14 million in total as a result of a scam, in which the scammers make unsolicited calls to people.
Often, the scammers demand that the targeted victims send them cash via prepaid debit cards.
“The IRS will never call you and demand payment without first mailing you a bill,” Schneider said.
He added that the IRS will never demand payment without giving the taxpayer an opportunity to question or appeal the amount and will never require that a specific payment method be used.
“They will never ask for a credit or debit card number,” Schneider said.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money:
n If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at (800) 829-1040. IRS workers can help with any payment issue.
n If you know you do not own taxes or have no reason to believe you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at (800) 366-4484 or online: www.tigta.gov.
“If there is no reason to believe that you own money, then you can actually report these,” he said.
For those who have been a phone scam victim, contact the Federal Trade Commission online at: www.ftc.gov and use the “FTC Complaint Assistant.” Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the complaint.
“If you believe that you are the victim of identity theft, contact the IRS to obtain an ID theft pin number,” Schneider said.
Officials also recommended that taxpayers utilize a proper tax professional.
“If you don’t do your own tax returns, you want to choose the right preparer,” he said.
They should have a preparer tax ID number, employ professional agents at the office with industry associations and be able provide information on their tax preparation fees and services upfront.
For more tips and information, visit the IRS online at: www.irs.gov.
There is an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center at 4210 Metro Parkway in Fort Myers. It is open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:40 p.m.; no appointment is necessary. The number is (239) 938-760.