The “Dirty Dozen” 2014 tax scams

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Last month, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published its yearly list of the most prolific tax-related scams. The 2014 list contains a number of scams including some that taxpayers attempt to use to evade taxes. But the list also includes several that criminals use to try and scam taxpayers out of money. Here, you’ll find summaries of those scams. You can also view the full list on the IRS website.

Identity Theft

Identity theft, where thieves use stolen personal information to commit crime, is a year-round problem. During tax season, thieves use this information to file fraudulent tax returns and claim refunds. This will create problems when you go to file your legitimate tax return. See the identity theft section of the IRS website for tips and assistance related to identity theft issues.

Pervasive Telephone Scams

Telephone scams involve a caller posing as an IRS representative in order to steal money or personal information. They may promise big refunds, or may make threats over taxes they claim are owed. The IRS lists several common characteristics of these scams. Among those are:

  • Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.
  • Scammers “spoof” or imitate the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
  • Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to victims to support their calls.

Thieves may threaten arrest or deportation (for immigrants), and follow up the initial call with additional calls from individuals posing as local police, DMV or immigration officials.

If you received a call from someone posing as the IRS that you believe is fraudulent, call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484 to report the incident.

Phishing

Much like telephone scams, phishing scams involve thieves posing as IRS agents, using email instead of the phone. The IRS says “to keep in mind the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information.”

You can report unsolicited emails that appear to be from the IRS (or other tax-related agencies) to phishing@irs.gov. You can also view an information guide on the IRS website related to email scams.

False Promises of “Free Money” from Inflated Refunds or Return Preparer Fraud

Sometimes the IRS finds scammers posing as tax preparers promising large refunds to people who often do not have a filing requirement, such as those with low incomes or the elderly, or to people who are non-English speakers.

They may use storefront operations to appear legitimate, and spread the word through community or church groups. They may charge money for bad or incorrect information about non-existing rebates or tax credits, or may file a fraudulent return on a victim’s behalf. In some cases tax payers never see the return that was filed, or the scammers often deposit refunds into their own accounts and deduct a large service fee from the refund amount they provide to the taxpayer.

Keep in mind that you are responsible for information included in your tax return, even if it was prepared by someone else. Take great care in selecting the person or company who prepares your taxes. You can also visit a special IRS Web page that will provide helpful info on choosing the right tax preparation professional and how and when to file a complaint.

“IRS.gov has general information on reporting tax fraud. More specifically, you report abusive tax preparers to the IRS on Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. Download Form 14157 and fill it out or order by mail at 800-TAX FORM (800-829-3676). The form includes a return address.”

Tim Grove, vice president of systems development, has been with EECU Credit Union’s information technology team since 1999, and is responsible for the programming and development of EECU’s website as well as all online and mobile services. Tim holds an undergrad degree in marketing from Oklahoma Christian University as well as an MBA from the University of Texas at Arlington, and has served marketing and IT teams at companies including Canon, EDS and Halliburton.

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