You may not spend much time contemplating your taxes this time of year. After all, tax day is seven months away. But the Internal Revenue Service wants all taxpayers to be on the lookout for scammers who are looking for a way to dupe you out of your money. In Tax Tip 2013-26, the IRS warns about three common “year-round scams,” including identity theft, phishing, and return preparer fraud. The IRS provides the following warnings about these scams that it wants every taxpayer to be on the lookout for:
Identity Theft. Identity thieves use personal information, such as your name, Social Security number or other identifying information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. An identity thief may also use another person’s identity to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund.
The IRS has a special identity protection page on IRS.gov dedicated to identity theft issues.It has helpful links to information, such as how victims can contact the IRS Identity Theft Protection Specialized Unit, and how you can protect yourself against identity theft.
Phishing. Scam artists use phishing to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal or financial information. Phishing scammers may pose as the IRS and send bogus emails, set up phony websites or make phone calls. These contacts usually offer a fictitious refund or threaten an audit or investigation to lure victims into revealing personal information. Phishers then use the information they obtain to steal the victim’s identity, access their bank accounts and credit cards or apply for loans. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. Please forward suspicious scams to the IRS at email@example.com. You can also visit IRS.gov and select the link “Reporting Phishing” at the bottom of the page.
Return Preparer Fraud. Most tax professionals file honest and accurate returns for their clients. However, some dishonest tax return preparers skim a portion of the client’s refund or charge inflated fees for tax preparation. Some try to attract new clients by promising refunds that are too good to be true.
If you need assistance or have questions, you may want to contact the IRS directly or consult with a qualified attorney or accountant.
Bill Martin is a former B-52 and B-1 pilot and senior attorney for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and is admitted to the U.S. Tax Court. He is currently a partner in the law firm of Keefe, Anchors & Gordon in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.