Tax season means different things to different people. For some, it’s a time of frustration and stress, as they scramble to get their documents in order and file their returns on time. For others, it’s a period of celebration, as they await their large refund check from the government.
Whatever your thoughts on taxes, there’s one aspect to them that should cause just about everyone’s ears to perk up. You see, every year, millions of Americans suffer scams, fraud, and identity theft during the tax preparation and refund process.
This year is no different, and leading experts are encouraging consumers to be wary “of a long list of tax scams,” including some tricks “with a new twist.”
Those warnings come to us from Business Insider, which recently ran a compelling article on taxes, identity theft, and consumer protection.
The most pressing tax scam for Americans to watch out for, according to the IRS and Business Insider, is “an old favorite.” Scammers, in essence, file “a fake tax return with stolen personal information, like your Social Security number.”
But here’s the twist, according to the report:
“…this time, scammers aren’t keeping the fraudulent tax refund for themselves. At least not at first.
After filing the fake tax return, identity thieves are using taxpayers’ actual bank account information to have the refund deposited — then, they call to collect.
The scammers follow up with the taxpayer, either posing as the IRS or debt collectors demanding the return of the fraudulent tax refund. In some cases, the caller threatens criminal fraud charges, an arrest warrant, and to ‘blacklist’ the taxpayer’s Social Security Number.”
According to the IRS, the number of taxpayers falling victim to this scam jumped from “a few hundred to thousands,” and, they warn, “it’s possible that more taxpayers could fall prey to it” before tax season is out.
So, what can consumers do to protect themselves from potential tax scams? According to Business Insider, one method may be to “file as soon as possible.” The IRS also encourages consumers to select direct deposit as the method for receiving a refund, saying that it is “simple, safe, and secure,” and “the best and fastest way to get your tax refund.”
If you’re concerned that you may be a victim of identity theft or tax fraud, the IRS has guidelines for reporting suspected tax fraud activity, available here. The service also has posted guidelines for how to return erroneous or fraudulent refunds.
And, finally, the IRS reminds consumers that their standard practice for reaching out to a consumer is via the US Postal service, and that they never discuss personal tax issues “through unsolicited emails or texts, or over social media.”
As Business Insider puts it: “Always be wary if you are contacted by someone claiming to be from the IRS who says you owe money.”
For more insight and information, we encourage you to read the full Business Insider piece, available here.
Led by Attorney Michael D. Finn with 50 years of experience, the Finn Law Group is a consumer protection firm specializing in timeshare law. Our lawyers understand vacation ownership as well as the many pitfalls of the secondary market of timeshare resales. If you feel you have been victimized by a timeshare company, contact our offices for a free consultation. Know your rights as a consumer and don’t hesitate to drop us a line with any questions or concerns.