Usually the word "dozen" describes pleasant things like a dozen donuts or a dozen roses. However, this time of year, the IRS apparently does not think of the word "dozen" as a pleasant word as it has recently released the "Dirty Dozen" Tax Schemes for this year. With tax season in full swing and April 15 just around the corner, here is a sampling of what consumers should look out for:
1. Identity Theft: Your personal information, such as your name, Social Security number (SSN) or other identifying information, is used without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. In many cases, an identity thief uses a legitimate taxpayer's identity to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund. So your refund is gone before you even know about it.
2. Pervasive Telephone Scams: There is a report of recent increase in local phone scams across the country, with callers pretending to be from the IRS in hopes of stealing money or identities from victims. These phone scams include many variations, where callers say the victims owe money or are entitled to a huge refund. Some calls threaten arrest or driver's license revocation. Sometimes these calls are paired with follow-up calls stating they are from the local police department or the state motor vehicle department.
3. False Promises of "Free Money" from Inflated Refunds: Scam artists routinely pose as tax preparers during tax time, luring victims in by promising large federal tax refunds or refunds that people never dreamed they were due in the first place. Scammers prey on people who do not have a filing requirement, such as low-income individuals or the elderly. They also prey on non-English speaking individuals, who may or may not be required to file a tax return. Visit irs.gov for more information on these requirements.
4. Return Preparer Fraud: About 60 percent of taxpayers will use tax professionals this year to prepare their tax returns. Most return preparers provide honest service to their clients. But, some unscrupulous preparers take advantage of unsuspecting taxpayers, and the result can be refund fraud or identity theft. Choose carefully when hiring an individual or firm to prepare your return. Visit bbb.org when looking for a tax preparer.
5. Impersonation of Charitable Organizations: Following major disasters, it's common for scam artists to impersonate charities to get money or private information from well-intentioned taxpayers. Scam artists can use a variety of tactics. Some scammers operating bogus charities may contact people by telephone or email to solicit money or financial information. They may even directly contact disaster victims and claim to be working for or on behalf of the IRS to help the victims file casualty loss claims and get tax refunds. Check out a charity before donating by visiting bbb.org.
6. Phishing: Phishing is a scam typically carried out with the help of unsolicited email or a fake website that poses as a legitimate site to lure in potential victims and prompt them to provide valuable personal and financial information. Armed with this information, a criminal can commit identity theft or financial theft. If you receive an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), report it by sending it to email@example.com.
For more information on scams, visit us at bbb.org/boston or check out the IRS' entire list of "Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 2014."