By Ronica Shannon
Senior News Writer
Tax season most often is viewed as an opportunity for taxpayers to get something back, but the Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about people who are wanting to take refunds for themselves.
“Don’t fall victim to tax scams,” said Heather Clary, spokesperson for the Lexington-based BBB. “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
The BBB has taken a look at some of the most common tax scams that surface during this time of year.
“Phishing” is one common method scammers use to gain important personal information.
“Phishing includes emails or websites that trick victims into providing personal information,” Clary said. “If you get an email ‘from the IRS’ asking for your personal information, delete it!”
The scenario goes like this: A taxpayer receives a phone call from an individual claiming to be from the IRS. The “IRS representative” tells the taxpayer that a mistake was made on their taxes and that the IRS owes them $2,000.
“There’s a catch,” Clary said. “In order to receive the money, the consumer must provide bank account information. The IRS is not making these calls and would never request banking information over the phone to make a direct deposit.”
If a taxpayer is expecting a large tax return and it doesn’t show up, they should beware, she said.
“The taxpayer calls the IRS who tells her they already paid out,” she explains. “Someone has used her Social Security number to grab the refund. In this case, the victim thinks her number was stolen by someone offering her a bogus job. In another variation, the IRS warns, your Social Security number is stolen and used by the scammer in a job and you get their tax bill.”
The IRS should immediately be contacted if a tax return does not come to the person expecting it, Clary said.
Beware of some online tax preparation websites
Users of the tax software TurboTax may get an email that appears to come from the software company, asking them to download updates, to comply with IRS requirements, Clary said.
The link takes them to a bogus site where they’re asked to download the updates, she said. But the download is a virus that wrecks computer security. Alternatively, the phony site asks for personal information, which is a phishing scam. TurboTax never solicits personal information by email and you can check for any required updates from within the program.
Around tax time, thousands of emails, faxes and phone calls begin circulating, claiming to be from the IRS, Clary said.
If you believe your personal information has been stolen and used for tax purposes, you should immediately contact the IRS at 800-908-4490.