Tax scams spike during filing season
With tax season in full swing, the Better Business Bureau Northwest warns of new twists on tax scams hammering local consumers.
According to the BBB Scam Tracker, tax scams ranked at the top nationally in 2015 with more than 2,000 reports out of 10,000 reported.
The Internal Revenue Service says consumers lost more than $23 million over the past three years to impostors posing as federal agents tricking victims into making false tax payments.
The Better Business Bureau reminds consumers to be wary of unsolicited phone calls, emails or letters purported to be from the IRS or any official-sounding government agency. The IRS will not call to demand payment, ask for financial information over the phone or require that taxes be paid by a certain method.
Watch for these scams
• Impostor scams. Scammers pose as IRS agents and instill fear in victims by demanding money or threatening jail time. Fraudsters will spoof phone numbers so that the call appears to be coming from the IRS or local law enforcement. There’s been some cases where cons obtain a victim’s personal information, adding credence to the demand for money.
• Tax relief scams. Watch for deceptive advertisements claiming to greatly reduce a person’s tax liability. Scammers will use official looking IRS notices or websites to sway people into paying unnecessary money or divulging private and personal information.
• ID theft. Scammers use stolen personal information, Social Security numbers and falsified W-2 information to file fraudulent tax returns in the victim’s name. In some cases, thieves stole W-2’s out of unsecured mailboxes.
This tax season, the BBB recommends consumers take the following precautions.
• E-file only from secure computers. Make sure anti-virus software is up-to-date. Never use public Wi-Fi to file tax returns.
• Don’t file taxes from a link in an email.
• Mail tax returns from the post office or a secure mailbox.
• Shred old tax returns. Income tax returns and worksheets should be kept for seven years from the filing date.
• Know your tax preparer. Find ones you can trust at bbb.org.
For more information or to file a complaint, go to bbb.org, FTC or the IRS.
Michelle Tabler is the Better Business Bureau Alaska Regional Manager.