On the prowl for tax scam­mers

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

There’s been a lot of talk in the real news about fake news lately. But some fake things re­ally torque off Dana Davis more than oth­ers. Like fake tax col­lec­tors.

Davis, a Cal­i­for­nia, Md., res­i­dent, is district co­or­di­na­tor of the St. Mary’s County AARP Tax-Aide Pro­gram, and has been vol­un­teer­ing with that for a decade. Be­fore that, she spent 10 years with the fed­eral govern­ment’s Vol­un­teer In­come Tax As­sis­tance pro­gram.

She knows what she’s talking about as a ca­reer num­ber-cruncher, and uses good old com­mon sense to help the tax­pay­ing pub­lic — es­pe­cially se­nior cit­i­zens liv­ing on fixed in­comes — avoid the char­la­tans.

And she just is­sued her lat­est warn­ing. She re­layed the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice’s cau­tion to be on the look­out for an ar­ray of evolv­ing tax scams re­lated to iden­tity theft and re­fund fraud.

She says some of the most preva­lent IRS im­per­son­ation scams in­clude:

• Re­quest­ing fake tax pay­ments. The IRS has seen au­to­mated calls where scam­mers leave ur­gent call­back re­quests telling tax­pay­ers to call back to set­tle their “tax bill.” These fake calls gen­er­ally claim to be the last warn­ing be­fore le­gal ac­tion is taken. Tax­pay­ers may also re­ceive live calls from IRS im­per­son­ators.

• Tar­get­ing stu­dents and par­ents and de­mand­ing pay­ment for a fake “Fed­eral Stu­dent Tax.” Tele­phone scam­mers are tar­get­ing stu­dents and par­ents de­mand­ing pay­ments for fic­ti­tious taxes. If the per­son does not com­ply, the scam­mer be­comes ag­gres­sive and threat­ens to re­port the stu­dent to the po­lice to be ar­rested.

• Send­ing a fraud­u­lent IRS bill for tax year 2015 re­lated to the Af­ford­able Care Act. The IRS has re­ceived nu­mer­ous re­ports around the coun­try of scam­mers send­ing a fraud­u­lent ver­sion of CP2000 notices for tax year 2015.

• Solic­it­ing W-2 in­for­ma­tion from pay­roll and hu­man re­sources pro­fes­sion­als.

• Im­i­tat­ing soft­ware providers to trick tax pro­fes­sion­als. Tax pro­fes­sion­als may re­ceive emails pre­tend­ing to be from tax soft­ware com­pa­nies. The email scheme re­quests the re­cip­i­ent down­load and in­stall an im­por­tant soft­ware update via a link in­cluded in the email. Upon com­ple­tion, tax pro­fes­sion­als be­lieve they have down­loaded a soft­ware update when in fact they have loaded a pro­gram de­signed to track the tax pro­fes­sional’s key­strokes, which is a com­mon tac­tic used by cy­ber thieves to steal lo­gin in­for­ma­tion, pass­words and other sen­si­tive data.

• “Ver­i­fy­ing” tax re­turn in­for­ma­tion over the phone. Scam artists call say­ing they have your tax re­turn, and they just need to ver­ify a few de­tails to process your re­turn. The scam tries to get you to give up per­sonal in­for­ma­tion.

• Pre­tend­ing to be tax pre­par­ers.

Davis says the IRS will never call to de­mand im­me­di­ate pay­ment us­ing a spe­cific method such as a pre­paid debit card, gift card or wire trans­fer or ini­ti­ate con­tact by email or text mes­sage. Gen­er­ally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.

Like­wise, they won’t threaten to im­me­di­ately bring in lo­cal po­lice or other law-en­force­ment groups to have you ar­rested for not pay­ing. Nor will they ask for credit or debit card num­bers over the phone.

If you get a sus­pi­cious phone call from some­one claim­ing to be from the IRS and ask­ing for money, do not give out any in­for­ma­tion. Hang up im­me­di­ately. See the IRS Im­per­son­ation Scam Re­port­ing web page or call 800-3664484.

If you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS di­rectly at 800-829-1040.

And Davis in­vited any­one with a tax scam ques­tion to call her at 301-8632561. She’s al­ways on the prowl to catch the bad guys.

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