You might not be excited about income tax season, but guess who is? Criminals! Each year, con artists prey upon taxpayers by stealing refunds, committing identity fraud, launching phony tax preparation schemes, and more. Watch for these signs of tax-related crimes, and report any suspicious activity to the IRS or your local law enforcement officials.
Bogus “charities”. Con artists are aware that you could earn a valuable tax credit by donating money to a charity. They often create very realistic-appearing fake charities, and will solicit you for donations. Before donating to any charity, always check with the IRS to make sure it is approved for the correct tax status. Keep in mind that con artists might use similar, or even the very same, names as common charitable organizations.
Tax preparation schemes. If anyone offers to prepare your taxes for you, view this offer with extreme skepticism. Investigate the business with your local Better Business Bureau, or ask a trusted friend for a referral. Some “tax preparers” are just criminals who want to steal your personal information.
You find out that your return has already been filed. Con artists often file tax returns in other people's names, and then steal their refunds. If you file your taxes and then receive a message that you have already filed for the year, then you are likely a victim of this scam. It's a good reminder to never give your Social Security number to anyone who shouldn't be asking for it!
If you were already a victim of this scheme, it might take some time for the IRS to work out the details. In the meantime, request a special personal identification number so that you can safely file your taxes in the future.
Bogus calls from the IRS. Con artists often place random phone calls, pretending to be IRS agents. They are even clever enough to trick your Caller ID into displaying very official-looking information, such as “Internal Revenue Service” or “Washington, DC”. They might threaten you with an audit, law enforcement action, or even deportation due to an “error” on your taxes. These are just scare tactics meant to pressure you into giving out personal information over the phone. Remember the IRS never calls to ask for credit card or checking account numbers. If there is a problem with your return, they will send you a letter in the mail. You can also contact the IRS directly if you have questions; that way you know who is on the other end of the line!
For more questions about keeping your money safe, give us a call. We can offer a referral to a reputable tax accountant.
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