Beware of tax season scams

tax-newAs part of National Consumer Protection Week, Attorney General Mark Herring is reminding citizens to protect themselves from identity theft, fraud and other scams as tax season approaches.

“It’s important that consumers remain vigilant against tax fraud and scams year round, but especially during tax season when these kinds of activities tend to spike,” said Attorney General Herring. “Remember to only do businesses with tax preparers or other service providers who are trustworthy and reputable, and take steps to protect against identity theft and other financial crimes. If you think you may be a victim of a financial crime, contact the IRS or my office immediately.”Herring reminded all taxpayers that they are legally responsible for their tax returns, even if they are prepared by someone else. It is very important that consumers only do business with reputable preparers because taxpayers who buy into scams can end up being penalized for filing false claims or receiving fraudulent refunds. Just this week, the Attorney General and Dana J. Boente, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, announced the federal indictment of a Virginia man and his wife for a tax preparation scam.

Additionally, taxpayers should take steps to protect against identity theft by properly securing or destroying documents that contain identifiable information such as names, Social Security numbers, addresses, or places of employment.

Each year, the IRS compiles its ‘Dirty Dozen’ list which includes a variety of common scams taxpayers can encounter at any point during the year, but which tend to peak during tax filing season. Some of the most prevalent scams from the IRS’ 2014 Dirty Dozen scam list include:

  • Return Preparer Fraud – Most preparers provide honest service to their clients. But others prey on unsuspecting taxpayers.  It is important to choose carefully when hiring an individual or firm to prepare your return. For tips about choosing a preparer and other helpful information, click on this link: IRS Fact Sheet 2014-5.
  • Identity Theft – Identity theft tops this year’s list. Identity thieves will try to obtain your name, Social Security number or other identifying information, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. Scammers can use a legitimate taxpayer’s identity to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund.
  • Telephone Scams – Local phone scams have increased.  Callers pretend to be from the IRS in hopes of stealing money or identities from victims.  There are many variations to these scams.  Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number or “spoof” or imitate the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that the IRS is calling.
  • Phishing – Phishing typically occurs through an unsolicited email or fake website that poses as a legitimate site to lure potential victims into providing valuable personal and financial information which the scammer can use to commit identity theft or financial theft.  The IRS DOES NOT initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information.

The IRS reminds taxpayers that tax scams can take many forms and people should be on the lookout for many other types of scams.  For help from the IRS with specific problems, they provide this contact list for more information and assistance:

  • Identity Theft concerns: Contact the IRS’ Identity Protection Specialized Unit immediately at 800-908-4490.  You may also contact the Virginia Attorney General’s Victim Notification Unit for help with an identity theft issue by e-mailing us at: victim@oag.state.va.us.  Our Office is dedicated to assisting all Virginians in avoiding identity crime and providing them with the information necessary to help them in being proactive should they become a victim of identity theft.  We have published a booklet available by clicking this link: “How To Avoid Identity Theft – A Guide for Victims of Identity Theft.”
  • You do not owe taxes but got a call or bill saying you do: Call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.
  • You got a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS: If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 for help with a payment issue.

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section helps educate Virginians about fraud and investigates and acts on consumer complaints regarding things like telemarketers, phone scams and deceptive business practices.  You may contact our office to get more information on a company or to file a complaint. Visit our website: www.ag.virginia.gov or call 1-800-552-9963 in Virginia or (804) 786-2042 if calling from the Richmond area.



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