Beware, tax scammers are at it again

Staff Report

Tax time is here, and so are the scammers.

Since January, the Ohio attorney general’s office has received about190 reports of tax-related scams.

“Con artists are very good at what they do,” Attorney General Mike DeWine said. “They rely on scare tactics and surprise. When people get scared, they do irrational things. That’s why we want people to know the warning signs. Awareness can make all the difference.”

Common tax scams include:

• IRS impostor scams: It generally begins with a phone call claiming you owe back taxes or that a warrant has been issued for your arrest. You’re told to call a certain number immediately, and eventually you’re asked to send money or to provide personal information to resolve the supposed problem.

• W-2 phishing scams: This scam targets employers and payroll employees. Typically, they receive an email that appears to come from the boss or the head of the organization. The email instructs the employee to send all employees’ W-2s. Although the email may appear to be legitimate, it’s actually part of a phishing scam.

• Tax identity theft: This generally occurs when someone steals your personal information to file a tax return and fraudulently obtain your refund. This year, there are extra concerns about tax identity theft because of data breaches that have exposed individuals’ Social Security numbers and other sensitive information.

Tips to avoid tax scams include:

• File your tax return promptly. This makes it less likely that an impostor will be able to file a tax return in your name to steal your refund.

• Don’t respond to threatening robocalls. If you receive an unexpected phone call from someone who threatens to arrest you for not paying taxes, it’s probably a scam. Don’t respond to the call, and don’t provide payment or personal information over the phone.

• Don’t pay taxes using gift cards. In IRS impostor scams, con artists often ask people to buy gift cards and then read the card numbers over the phone. Using this information, the con artists drain funds from the card, making it difficult to trace or recover the money. The real IRS won’t demand that you pay over the phone using a gift card.

• Protect your personal information. If you file your taxes online, make sure you use a secure Internet connection. If you file by mail, take your completed return directly to the post office. Keep sensitive documents in a secure place. Before getting rid of any unneeded documents that contain your Social Security number or other sensitive information, shred them.

• Research tax preparers and tax-preparation companies. Before giving out any personal records or information, check a tax preparer’s credentials. For example, review information in the IRS’s directory of federal tax return preparers. Consider asking trusted friends and family for referrals.

• Watch out for phishing scams. Be wary of email messages that appear to come from your boss, your financial advisor, or your bank and ask you to provide personal information. These messages may be part of a phishing scam.

Staff Report