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Saturday January 18, 2020

Washington News

Washington Hotline

IRS Top Tax Scams

Each year the IRS publishes the "Dirty Dozen" tax scams. The IRS notes, "Taxpayers should be on the lookout for tax scams using the IRS name. These schemes jump every year at tax time. Scams can be sophisticated and take many different forms. We urge people to protect themselves and use caution when viewing emails, receiving telephone calls or getting advice on tax issues."

The top four tax scams this year are identity theft, phone fraud, fake websites and "free money" refunds.
  1. Identity Theft - The identity thief typically acquires your name and Social Security number. He or she attempts to file a tax return with your identity to obtain a large refund. The IRS reported an increase in identity theft tax fraud investigations last year. It has substantially increased its efforts to address potential identity theft and tax fraud. If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft, call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490. There is additional information about identity theft on www.irs.gov.
  2. Phone Fraud - Identity thieves may call you claiming to be from the IRS or state government. Typically, they will use common names and claim that you owe taxes. If you do not immediately pay taxes to them, they threaten to revoke your driver's license or take other action. Frequently, the caller hangs up and within a few minutes a second person calls claiming to be a police officer or from the Department of Motor Vehicles. He or she confirms the first message and demands payment. The IRS has a protection line at 1-800-829-1040. If you think you have been called by a person fraudulently claiming to be from the government, you also can use the FTC Complaint Assistant at FTC.gov.
  3. Fake Email or Website - Phishing is a term for sending an email with a link to a fraudulent website claiming to be a government website. The goal of the sender is to persuade the person to click on the link and then enter personal information. Using a Social Security Number or banking information, the thief can then commit identity theft or financial theft. Taxpayers need to understand that the IRS will not contact them by email. Unsolicited email is not from the IRS. Anyone who receives a "phishing" email should forward it to phishing@irs.gov.
  4. "Free Money" Refunds - Some scammers will use fliers, ads, storefronts and word of mouth to claim that everyone can receive large refunds. Many scammers have used informal networks such as community groups or religious groups to promote their "service". They claim that everyone should receive a substantial "free money" tax refund. The scammers prepare tax returns with inflated deductions and improper credits. The victims pay a substantial fee and file the return to claim their large refund. Unfortunately, because income reported on your tax return affects distribution of various Social Security, veterans, low-income housing and other government benefits, some individuals have experienced interruptions in their other government payments because they improperly reported their income. Taxpayers should be on guard for preparers who charge a large fee and do not provide a copy of their tax return.

Published January 4, 2019
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