Beware of Tax Season Fraud
Benjamin Franklin famously said that taxes were one of two certainties in life. Unfortunately, there are people out there who might try to get a piece of potential tax refunds you could be owed. Watch out for these five fraudulent schemes when wrapping up your tax filing this year:
- Beware of “Ghosts”
The Internal Revenue Service warns taxpayers to avoid unethical tax return preparers, known as ghost preparers. A ghost preparer is someone who doesn't sign tax returns they prepare. Not signing a return is a red flag that the paid preparer may be looking to make a quick profit by promising a big refund or charging fees based on the size of the refund.
- “Tax Transcripts” in your inbox
The IRS has warned the public that there has been a surge of fraudulent emails impersonating the IRS and using “tax transcripts” as bait to entice users to open documents containing malware. The IRS does not send unsolicited emails to the public, nor would it email a sensitive document such as a tax transcript, which is a summary of a tax return. The IRS urges taxpayers not to open the email or the attachment. If using a personal computer, delete or forward the scam email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Offers-In-Compromise Mills
Beware of promoters claiming their services are needed to settle with the IRS, that their debts can be settled for “pennies-on-the-dollar,” or that there is a limited window of time to resolve tax debts through the Offer in Compromise (OIC) program. These promoters are often referred to as “OIC Mills.” Find information on OIC Mills in this news release.
- Identity Theft
If scammers manage to obtain your social security number, they might fill out a bogus tax return using your stolen identity, skewing income numbers to inflate a tax refund that they try to have sent to them. One of the easiest ways to counter tax-related identity theft is to file your taxes early. If a scammer attempts to send in a fraudulent return after you’ve already filed, they’ll get an error message. If you think you might’ve been a victim of tax fraud, read more about what to do here.
- Gone Phishing
By now, most people have become aware that fraudulent robocalls or texts claiming to be from the IRS or Social Security Administration are phishing attempts. But it’s good to remain vigilant and warn those you care about to do the same. Don’t answer them. Don’t return the calls. But above all else, never give your social security number or any personal information over the phone or on a website to an unsolicited caller. If you’re in any doubt whether a call from an institution is real, hang up, find the number of the organization on an official website and call them. And remember, real government websites end in “.gov”.
Download a list of fraud prevention tips from BancorpSouth by visiting this link.