In the next two weeks, most Americans will be rushing to make sure that they have taxes filed by this year’s deadline – Tuesday, April 17, due to the normal date falling on a Sunday and the next day being Emancipation Day — to avoid any penalties.
And the down-to-the-wire approach means it will be open season for scammers looking to capitalize on people’s fears and hopefully make a quick buck from unsuspecting consumers.
According to a consumer alert filed on the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office website, scammers and thieves are using ingenious ways to milk hard-working people out of their money – going so far this year as to file fake tax returns and having the money deposited into the accounts of ordinary people.
Those people are then contacted by scammers posing as the IRS or debt collectors for the IRS who demand that the money be returned – only for the consumer to find out after they return the money that they’ve handed it over directly to the thieves, leaving the person swindled responsible.
While scammers used to call posing as the IRS and demand payment for late or overdue taxes, hoping that somebody would bite and send the money in order to avoid any further hassle, the fact that they’re now going so far as to file fake tax returns and generating refunds has law enforcement worried – especially in the age where spoofed websites can be created almost overnight and seem absolutely legitimate to those who are steered towards them.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, who has set up an entire department to investigate and go after IRS scammers and others who are using technology to swindle people out of money, there are a number of things that people can do to protect themselves:
uIf an errant tax return ends up your account, contact the IRS directly yourself to find out the best way to return the money. Never return it to somebody who calls and threatens legal action unless you comply.
uUse a secure internet connection if you file electronically, or mail your tax return directly from the post office so that thieves can’t intercept your paperwork or your electronic information.
uEnsure that online tax preparers have a valid tax preparer identification number.
uRespond to mail from the IRS as quickly as possible. Mail will always be the first way that the IRS will contact somebody who legitimately owes money.
uReport all suspected fraud or scam attempts to the FTC for investigation.
For more information about protecting yourself against scams, visit the FTC’s consumer website at www.consumer.ftc.gov.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.