Tax Season is in full swing. So are the tax scam artists. The last thing in the world any taxpayer needs is to become the prey of these dirty rotten scammers. Once caught up in their web a whole world of chaos unfolds. And the only one who gets hurt is you. The scammer is off to another victim before you know what has happened. Each year the IRS publishes the top twelve scams. (www.irs.gov) In the last few years the one that continues to top the list is the phone scam. Here’s how it plays out. Someone calls pretending to be an IRS representative. If you answer the phone, you immediately pay attention because they say they are from the IRS. Fear is the first emotion that comes up and that’s exactly what these scammers prey upon. They Count on Fear Most important is to control your fear. Here are a few techniques the dirty rotten scammers use to fool the unsuspecting victims.
- Use common names and provide fake IRS badge numbers.
- Know the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security number.
- Make it appear as if the IRS is really calling.
- Send fake IRS emails to support their scam.
- Call a second time claiming to be the police or DMV to support their claim.
When it comes to the phone, the only thing you need to remember, if you can keep your wits about you is that the IRS never initiates collecting a debt via telephone. If you can only remember this one thing, you’ll have the presence of mind to do one of three things: 1) Ask for a name and number and once you get that information tell them your lawyer will call them back; 2) hang up; or 3) simply tell them to bug off. Don’t be surprised if the person on the phone seems to know things about you. They troll social media sites and get bits and pieces of information, just enough to fool someone who is scared. Phishing for Personal Information From phishing to phony emails, from fake charities to false claims of zero income, from gaining your trust as a reputable tax preparer to setting up illegal trusts, today’s tax scammers are sophisticated and devious. They come at you from every angle, the phone, computer and in person. The face-to-face scammer is particularly deceitful. They’ll tell you they can get huge returns. The ways in which they do this are illegal. By the time you’re expecting a big check, they’ve pocketed it and you’re left to face the IRS for illegal claims, back taxes owed and huge fines. So select your tax preparer very carefully. If they do not file electronically let that be the first and only red flag. Walk away. Even if that particular tax preparer comes by way of a friend’s recommendation, walk away. There are more honest preparers than dishonest ones. Don’t fall for promises of huge returns. You could end up in hot water. Steer clear of tax scammers, file your taxes, work with a reputable tax preparer or attorney and you’ll never have to fear the IRS.