Scammers – they’re sneaky, malicious and unfortunately very busy. While most people try to enjoy a little down time during the summer, scammers are out there looking for ways to separate you from your money. Here is a list of three types of scams to be aware of this summer (and all year round). With a little preparation and knowledge you can help build a wall between you and the scammers.
Identity Theft always tops the list of scams. This is where an individual’s personal information is used to purchase items, commit fraud or even file a false tax return in order to claim the refund. A few tips to help you protect yourself include:
· Keeping personal information in a secure place
· Not carrying your social security card in your wallet
· Learning how to identify a secure website, if you don’t know you can go to Federal Trade Commission's website to learn how.
The IRS even has an identity protection page on IRS.gov that focuses specifically on identity theft issues. The page includes links on how to contact the IRS Identity Theft Protections Specialization Unit and more ways on how to protect yourself.
Phishing is when scammers gather an individual’s personal and/or financial information such as usernames, passwords , and credit card details by pretending to be a trust worthy business or entity. Phishing is usually done electronically via e-mail, social media, phone or having a website that appears to be a real one. Scammers will use a variety of tactics ranging from offering great deals (large refunds, vacations, ect…) to threats and intimidation to get unsuspecting users to give up information to bank accounts, credit cards and other information.
To protect yourself, be sure to cross reference any suspicious electronic notifications you receive. With taxes you should know that the IRS does not contact individuals by email or phone to request financial or person information. To report a suspicious email you can forward it the IRS at email@example.com and you can also go to Reporting Phishing at IRS.gov. For suspicious phone calls hang up immediately and dial 1-800-829-1040 to ask about the call you received.
Watch out for additional fees based on a percentage of the return or inflated fees. While technically legal, be wary of these types of prepares because they are motivated to get you a higher return in order to line their own pockets. This will often lead them to push individuals to claim items they are not entitled to, which can lead to major financial (and potentially legal) problems.
Always make sure to check if your tax preparer is registered with the IRS, established and well-known. Tax preparers receiving payment for their services must sign the return they prepare and enter their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Click www.irs.gov/chooseataxpro to see the IRS webpage to assist taxpayers when choosing a tax preparer.