Scams escalate during tax season


As if preparing a 2014 tax return and paying taxes isn’t painful enough. This past week, the Internal Revenue Service issued its annual filing season alert to be on the lookout for this year’s Dirty Dozen list of tax scams. 

Every year, criminals steal thousands of Social Security numbers and file tons of fraudulent returns daily during tax season.

“Scams can be sophisticated and take many forms,” said John Koskinen, IRS commissioner. “We urge people to protect themselves and use caution when viewing emails, receiving telephone calls, or getting advice on tax issues.”

The agency says number one: Keep all your personal information safe and secure by protecting your computer and only give out Social Security numbers only when it’s absolutely necessary.

In the three years of filing periods that ended in October 2014, the IRS has halted 19 million suspicious returns, saving taxpayers more than $63 billion in loss of fraudulent funds. In 2014 alone, sentences were handed down in 748 cases and typically the defendant received 43 months in prison.

One Three Rivers woman reported she received an “official looking” email a few days ago that was supposedly from the IRS. According to an email:

“Per a recent change in our Security Regulations, it is hereby required of you to validate some of your personal and employment-related information, that we have on record in the IRS database. The change was introduced with the purpose of keeping more up-to-date records of everyone registered with the IRS. The validation web page will remain active for 10 days after you receive this email. Failure to comply with the requirement, outlined above, will result in a fine of $250… Please visit the link below by clicking on it.”

The woman checked with her accountant and was told it was one of several scams circulating around the area and she called the IRS and the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department. Other local residents have received phone calls requesting similar information. 

IRS tips to avoid being scammed:

—Don’t carry your Social Security card or anything with your taxpayer identification number in your wallet. Store it in a secure place. 

—Don’t give any business a Social Security number unless it is absolutely required.

—Monitor your credit report.

—Review your Social Security Administration earnings annually.

—Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact. Agencies and companies will never ask for this information in a solicitous email.

—And watch what links you click on. Those email links let the scammers know they have a live address and, depending upon the sender and the scam, it could install malware onto your computer.

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