It’s tax season and the IRS is warning consumers to beware of tax-time scams.
Be on the lookout for “ghost preparers” who falsify information, promise higher returns by faking income, and adding deductions you normally wouldn’t qualify for, then refuse to sign for their work or include the required tax identification number on a return. Additionally, these tax preparers might require a cash payment without a receipt, or fill in their bank information instead of the taxpayers’ bank information for direct deposit refunds. If you’re having someone else prepare your taxes this year, be sure to double-check all the information before filing.
You’re also encouraged to be on high alert for scammers posing as financial institutions or “IRS Online employees” who send phony documents via email. When the consumer opens the email or attachment, malware can spread. The IRS won’t send unsolicited emails, but if you do receive one and accidentally open it, forward the fraudulent email to [email protected] and take steps to check for malware or other dangerous viruses.
Also, watch out for tax refund scams. Scammers have the capability to file fraudulent returns and have the deposits go to the wrong person. Then they threaten the account owner and demand the money be returned. If you think you’re a victim of this particular scam, it’s important to act quickly.
Here are some additional tips:
- If you receive an unexpected refund via direct deposit, immediately call your financial institution to have the funds returned to the IRS and flag your account for fraud. You also need to call the IRS to let them know why you’re refunding the return.
- If you receive a paper check refund that isn’t yours, write VOID on the back of the check, add a note that says “Return of erroneous refund check because [brief explanation],” and submit the check to the appropriate IRS location.
- The IRS will never call you directly, so don’t give personal information to anyone claiming they’re an agent.
If you think you’re a victim of tax-related identity theft, click here for more IRS recommendations on steps to take.