The IRS just released its annual Dirty Dozen tax scams for 2012. Although most of those are geared toward taxpayer attempts at scamming the IRS, a few are scams directed at taxpayers themselves. So you don’t get trapped in the scammer’s web of deceit, Phoenix tax attorney Lawrence ‘D’ Pew serves up three of the dirtiest tax scams as an important reminder to be careful who you deal with and protect your personally identifiable information (PII) from criminals.
Don’t Be Taken!
Tax season is now upon us, which means most taxpayers plan to seek some level of tax preparation assistance. Some filers will use the services of tax preparers, CPAs, and Phoenix tax attorneys to get their returns filed. As you might expect, tax season is also the time of year when scammers seem to crawl out from under every Arizona rock. This year, keep a watchful eye out for the following fraud schemes:
1 – Identity Theft, Yours. Stealing personally identifiable information (PII) for fraudulent tax purposes. In this scheme, scammers file false tax returns with the victim’s PII, with a tax refund going to the thief! “The IRS is increasingly seeing identity thieves looking for ways to use a legitimate taxpayer’s identity and personal information to file a tax return and claim a fraudulent refund.”
How will you know if your identity has been stolen? If detected, the IRS will notify you that it has received more than one return with your name and social security number. You may also learn that a return was filed on income from an employer that you never worked for. To learn more about scammers who steal PII for fraudulent tax purposes, visit www.IRS.gov/identitytheft.
2 – Phishing for You. Everyone has experienced phishy emails at some time or other. You know the routine, the scammer lures you into biting at the email-bait by providing your personal or financial information online. Once the scammer has your PII, the phishing expedition is quickly followed with identity theft or financial fraud.
A phishy email purporting to be from the IRS or from the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) is FAKE – don’t take the bait! “The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information.” So do not respond to the email and, instead, forward that lure directly to the IRS through firstname.lastname@example.org.
3 – Tax Preparer Fraud. The IRS predicts that 60% of U.S. taxpayers will hire a tax professional to complete their returns this year. Choose your tax preparer very carefully! Every legitimate preparer is issued a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). When you seek tax preparation services, ask for the individual’s PTIN – if he or she doesn’t have one, then take your business elsewhere. If the “preparer” wants a portion of your tax refund as a preparation fee, then you may be dealing with what the IRS calls an “unscrupulous return preparer ” – turn away and run for the exit!
We want you to breeze through this tax season without any problems, so be very careful about releasing your PII. If your information lands in the wrong hands, the consequences of identity theft could be devastating for you and your family. And if you forward those email phishing expeditions to the IRS, you might just prevent someone else from becoming the next scam victim.