Every year during tax season the IRS comes up with its dirty dozen tax scams. . It is important to be aware of these scams because if you are subject to one it could be costly. For example, one of the scams listed by the IRS includes taking advantage of tax credits that you are not entitled to. Not only will you be denied the credit thus, causing you to have to repay the money but in addition, you will have to pay interest and also be subject to severe penalties. As I’ve said many times in the past, we are responsible for our own tax returns and therefore, it is important that we be aware of the scams that are out there. Although, I would love to discuss all of the tax scams, space doesn’t allow that. Therefore, I do want to highlight a few of the tax scams that do affect many of us here in Southeast Michigan.
The first scam that the IRS mentioned and it is one that I have mentioned in the past and is still claiming more and more victims, is the scam where someone calls you and tells you they’re from the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS has noted that more and more people are receiving threatening calls claiming they are from the IRS. These scam artists are targeting vulnerable people such as the elderly and threatening them with arrests and other actions unless money is paid. These scam artists sound official and are even able to alter caller ID numbers to appear that they are the IRS. As I’ve said many times in the past, the IRS does not call taxpayers demanding immediate payment. In addition, the IRS does not threaten arrests by local police or other law enforcement groups. The bottom line if you receive a call or text from the IRS, hang up.
You may wonder what happens to all that information that identity thieves steal. Well, sometimes these scam artists use that information to file false tax returns on your behalf claiming a refund. Although, there is very little you can do to protect yourself from this, the key is to protect your Social Security number as much as possible. Just because someone asks for your Social Security number doesn’t mean you have to give it to them. Remember; protect your personal information at all times.
Another scam that is growing is by groups that prey on our good nature by forming bogus charities. Particularly, when it comes to a natural disaster, scam artists come out in droves. As taxpayers we should be wary of charities with names similar to nationally known organizations. One thing I do to make sure I’m not scammed when it comes to charities is to go to websites like www.charitynavigator.org to check out the charity before I give money. In addition, don’t give sensitive information over the phone to charities soliciting contributions. In fact I personally won’t give to any phone solicitation by a charity.
Dishonest tax preparers also have once again made the IRS dirty dozen list. Every year around now dishonest tax preparers set up shop in order to perpetuate refund fraud, identity theft and other scams that take your money. As taxpayers we have to be cautious as to who prepares our returns. If you are hiring someone to do your return, make sure they have an IRS preparer tax identification number. Also, look at their qualifications. It is also important that if you are receiving a refund that the money is directly deposited into your account, not the tax preparer’s account. There have been many cases where taxpayers have been defrauded out of their refund by having their refund sent to the tax preparer. In addition, you should also never sign your blank tax return, and before you sign you ought to review it and question anything that is not clear.
Lastly, the IRS wanted to remind people that they do not send out unsolicited emails. Numerous taxpayers have received unsolicited emails that they’ve clicked on that have allowed identity thieves to steal their valuable personal and financial information. The IRS does not initiate contact through emails. Therefore, if you receive an email that looks like it’s from the IRS and looks official, don’t click on it; just delete it.
This is the time of year that the tax scam artists are out in force. It is up to us to protect ourselves. When it comes to hiring a preparer, it’s not the cheapest one that you should hire or the one who claims they can get you the most money back; rather, the one you want to hire is the one who is competent and professional.
One last thing, if you get caught up in a tax scam the worst thing you can do is to ignore it because I can assure you it won’t go away.