Tax scams — How to avoid losing thousands of dollars
The Internal Revenue Service is out with its annual, "dirty dozen" list of tax scams. They include"phishing schemes using fake emails and websites, and phone calls purportedly from the IRS.
Here is a sample of the more glaring scams:
Phishing: Tax scammers use forged emails to try and pry loose your personal information, or they steer you to fake websites with the same purpose, telling you that you owe the IRS money or you are due a refund. Do not click on an email like this.
Phone scams: Ciminals pose as agents, warning that you owe them money and you are in big trouble. The IRS does not contact taxpayers with threatening phone calls.
Identity theft: You should be aware of the ongoing problems with ID thieves trying to glean your personal data from tax returns. As we reported last month, in some scams, thieves use stolen personal information to deposit money into victims accounts — and then pose as IRS agents or debt collectors demanding it be "returned" to them.
Inflated refund claims: The IRS warns about phony tax preparers who promise inflated returns, or preparers who ask taxpayers to sign blank returns. Never do this, says the IRS.
Offshore tax avoidance: Scammers will approach victims with claims they can hide money from the IRS overseas. The feds calls the effort a "bad bet." They say those who get tangled in offshore tax capers should come clean and come into IRS offices to make it good.
Patricia Russomagno, a spokeswoman for the Internal Revenue Service, said return preparer fraud is a big one this year, because it leads to so many other issues for taxpayers.
"Be on the lookout for these unscrupulous tax preparers, tax preparers who sort of set up a sign, and they say that they are open for business. but once you file your tax return, they are nowhere to be found," she said.
"These tax preparers who tell you, 'Hey! I can get you the best refund! I can get you the most money back!' There isn't really the best refund," she said. "There is just the correct refund
She said the endgame for these scams is to steal taxpayers' identities, and ultimately their money.
"This personal financial information is just as important to you as anything else. It is really important to safeguard that, and make sure that other people are not able to get it," Russomagno said. "Do everything that you can on your end to protect your financial information."
Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.
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