Thousands of people — including a few in Kane County — have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams. Scammers use the regular mail, telephone, or email to set up individuals, businesses, payroll and tax professionals.
The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. Recognize the telltale signs of a scam.
If you believe you’re being scammed, don’t hesitate to report to your local police department or the Kane County Sheriff’s Office if you live in an unincorporated area.
That said, here are some tips and additional information about scams happening as we get close to the April 15 deadline.
Scams Targeting Taxpayers
IRS warns of new phone scam using Taxpayer Advocate Service numbers
The Internal Revenue Service today warned the public about a new twist on the IRS impersonation phone scam whereby criminals fake calls from the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent organization within the IRS.
Similar to other IRS impersonation scams, thieves make unsolicited phone calls to their intended victims fraudulently claiming to be from the IRS. In this most recent scam variation, callers “spoof” the telephone number of the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service office in Houston or Brooklyn.
Calls may be ‘robo-calls’ that request a call back. Once the taxpayer returns the call, the con artist requests personal information, including Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).
TAS can help protect your taxpayer rights. TAS can help if you need assistance resolving an IRS problem, if your problem is causing financial difficulty, or if you believe an IRS system or procedure isn’t working as it should.
TAS does not initiate calls to taxpayers “out of the blue.” Typically, a taxpayer would contact TAS for help first, and only then would TAS reach out to the taxpayer.
IRS: Don’t be victim to a ‘ghost’ tax return preparer
The Internal Revenue Service is warning taxpayers to avoid unethical tax return preparers, known as ghost preparers.
By law, anyone who is paid to prepare or assist in preparing federal tax returns must have a valid 2019 Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN. Paid preparers must sign the return and include their PTIN.
But ‘ghost’ preparers do not sign the return. Instead, they print the return and tell the taxpayer to sign and mail it to the IRS. Or, for e-filed returns, they prepare but refuse to digitally sign it as the paid preparer.
According to the IRS, similar to other tax preparation schemes, dishonest and unscrupulous ghost tax return preparers look to make a fast buck by promising a big refund or charging fees based on a percentage of the refund. These scammers hurt honest taxpayers who are simply trying to do the right thing and file a legitimate tax return.
Ghost tax return preparers may also:
- Require payment in cash only and not provide a receipt.
- Invent income to erroneously qualify their clients for tax credits or claim fake deductions to boost their refunds.
- Direct refunds into their own bank account rather than the taxpayer’s account.
The IRS urges taxpayers to review their tax return carefully before signing and ask questions if something is not clear. And for any direct deposit refund, taxpayers should make sure both the routing and bank account number on the completed tax return are correct.
IRS warns of ‘Tax Transcript’ email scam
The Internal Revenue Service and Security Summit partners today warned the public of a surge of fraudulent emails impersonating the IRS and using tax transcripts as bait to entice users to open documents containing malware.
The scam is especially problematic for businesses whose employees might open the malware because this malware can spread throughout the network and potentially take months to successfully remove.
This well-known malware, known as Emotet, generally poses as specific banks and financial institutions in its effort to trick people into opening infected documents. The Summit partnership of the IRS, state tax agencies and the nation’s tax industry remind taxpayers to watch out for this scam.
However, in the past few weeks, the scam masqueraded as the IRS, pretending to be from “IRS Online.” The scam email carries an attachment labeled “Tax Account Transcript” or something similar, and the subject line uses some variation of the phrase “tax transcript.”
These clues can change with each version of the malware. Scores of these malicious Emotet emails were forwarded to email@example.com recently.
IRS, Security Summit Partners warn of new twist on phone scam
The Internal Revenue Service today warned of a new twist on an old phone scam as criminals use telephone numbers that mimic IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers to trick taxpayers into paying non-existent tax bills.
The IRS and its Security Summit partners – the state tax agencies and the tax industry – urge taxpayers to remain alert to tax scams year-round, especially immediately after the tax filing season ends. Even after the April deadline passes, the tax scam season doesn’t end.
In the latest version of the phone scam, criminals claim to be calling from a local IRS TAC office. Scam artists have programmed their computers to display the TAC telephone number, which appears on the taxpayer’s Caller ID when the call is made.
If the taxpayer questions their demand for tax payment, they direct the taxpayer to IRS.gov to look up the local TAC office telephone number to verify the phone number. The crooks hang up, wait a short time and then call back a second time, and they are able to fake or “spoof” the Caller ID to appear to be the IRS office calling. After the taxpayer has “verified” the call number, the fraudsters resume their demands for money, generally demanding payment on a debit card.
Fraudsters also have been similarly spoofing local sheriff’s offices, state Department of Motor Vehicles, federal agencies and others to convince taxpayers the call is legitimate.
SOURCE: IRS news releases, website