IRS: Don’t become a victim

Tax scams common during filing season

Suspicious activity already has been reported in Georgia during tax-filing season, said a spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service.

Mark Green said, during the filing season, it is common for the IRS to see a rise in tax-return-related scams.

“Don’t let yourself get involved in a tax scam, or be victimized by one,” Green said. “Be very careful who you trust for tax advice, and who you trust with your personal information.”

The IRS spokesman said taxpayers should be on guard, and keep their social security numbers and personal information safe. “The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by e-mail, text, social media — electronic communications –– to request personal or financial information,” said Green.

Con artists may target people, such as the elderly or students, who most likely don’t have a filing requirement, he explained. These taxpayers are falsely informed that they should file a return with the IRS for tax credits, refunds or rebates.

He said most tax preparers give honest and professional service, but there are those involved in fraudulent and illegal activities.

Scammers mislead people into paying for guidance to file claims, he said. Some charge unreasonable amounts to prepare legitimate tax returns, when these returns could be prepared for free by the IRS, or partners of the IRS-sponsored Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, he added.

Taxpayers should watch out for scams such as:

• The 2012 phishing scam, which involves an e-mail warning recipients that they will be penalized up to $10,000 for failing to file their taxes on time, said the spokesman. The scam provides a false deadline of Jan. 31, and mentions “Section 6038.” The e-mail could be entitled “Penalty for not filing tax return on time” on its subject line, he explained. The e-mail links recipients to a false web site, where they’re asked to provide their personal or financial information. He said the actual deadline to file tax returns is April 17.

• Receiving phone calls about economic-stimulus payments is also a scam, said Green. These calls involve a scammer impersonating an IRS employee, where he or she asks the taxpayer for their social security and bank account numbers. The scammer informs the victim they need this information to finish processing the taxpayer’s stimulus payment. Green said the IRS actually uses information in the taxpayer’s tax return to process the payment, and won’t contact the taxpayer by phone or e-mail.

He said claims of non-existent social security refunds or rebates also have been used by criminals to lure in victims. In other cases, the criminal may prepare the taxes and use false information on the return, which then makes it fraudulent.

“Promoters of these scams often prey upon low-income individuals and the elderly,” said Green. “They build false hopes, and charge people good money for bad advice.”

If a person is, or may be, a victim of identity theft and has not received a notice and letter, or if prior contact with the IRS has not led to a resolution, he or she should contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit, at 1-800-908-4490, Green said.

For more information, visit www.IRS.gov, key word search “1040 Central.”