Tax season is once again in full swing. While many concerned taxpayers file tax returns to meet the required deadline, criminals work harder to cash in taking advantage of the hectic tax season. Tax fraud remains a growing concern nationally, and counterfeit scams cost millions of dollars. Individuals who take a proactive approach can deter fraud and protect their identity, information and their finances. Here are a few recent scams catching the watchful eye of the IRS.
TAX PREPARATION SCAMS
The IRS just released notice IR-2019-09 to alert taxpayers of unscrupulous tax preparers. Deceitful tax preparers file erroneous tax returns for many unknown taxpayers. The law requires all preparers who receive payment for preparation of federal tax returns to have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). The tax preparer must include their PTIN and sign the return. For e-filed tax returns, a dishonest preparer will omit his electronic signature. Additionally, they may falsify tax information to increase the refund, while directing the refund into their bank account. Tax payers must review their tax returns for accuracy of income and deductions. Ensure the tax preparer signs the return and includes their PTIN. Make sure the bank account and routing numbers are correct. The IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications provides an excellent resource to locate established tax preparers with the IRS.
CHARITABLE GIVING SCAMS
In the fall of 2018, the IRS posted notice IR-2018-188 to inform individuals of charitable giving scams. The 2018 hurricane season ended with Hurricane Florence and Michael wreaking destruction in its pathway, destroying homes and causing millions of dollars in damages. Natural disasters bring out the best in generous individuals seeking to aid donations to humanity in times of a national emergency. Sadly, criminals take advantage of benevolent individuals who desire to financially aid their fellow man in dire need. Counterfeit websites disguise themselves as other well-known established charities to deceive generous individuals to donate money to a dire cause. Additionally, some individuals receive solicitations from fraudulent charities, promising a nice tax deduction in return for your donation. Don’t fall victim to their schemes. Donors can prevent thousands of dollars from falling into the wrong hands. The IRS provides a tool to help prevent against charitable giving scams. Donors can verify if a charity is legitimate by utilizing the IRS search tool, Tax Exempt Organization Search. Never give to a charity who solicits a donation without first verifying the authenticity of their organization.
EMAIL PHISHING SCAMS
In IRS notice IR-2018-226, the IRS alerts taxpayers to a recent spike in email phishing scams. While fraudulent emails and phishing scams have been around awhile, data thieves continue working diligently to improve new tactics to steal valuable information. Emotet is the infected malware of choice in many email scams, and Emotet remains well-known as the most damaging and expensive to fix. Many of these scam emails display tax account transcript in the subject line of the email and include infected attachments with similar wording. These emails appear legitimate. They often disguise themselves as representatives with banks, financial institutions and the IRS. The IRS logo and other well-known bank logos appear real, and many unsuspecting individuals open the infected email attachment. The IRS does not contact individuals through email. The IRS warns individuals to not open suspecting emails. The IRS remains diligent to combat against fraud. If you suspect a suspicious email, you can also forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org.