FEBRUARY 20, 2019, Fort Knox, KY – In 2018, the Internal Revenue Service reported a surge in phone scamming during the income tax return season and are again cautioning filers not to be fooled by criminals.
On their website, the IRS lists scam phone calls near the top of its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax cons. The officer in charge of Fort Knox’s Tax Center, Capt. Thomas Sandbrink, said the differences between real and faux tax collectors are obvious if you know what to look for.
“Tax schemers use all kinds of tactics from phone calls to fake emails; they act like the IRS and claim that you owe money,” Sandbrink said. “People should understand that the IRS will notify you by mail first; they won’t demand a specific form of payment or that you pay by credit card. If the caller threatens to contact the police or to take legal action, it’s pretty certain to be fraudulent.”
Also making the list is identity theft, a more subtle way to fleece taxpayers. Sandbrink said identity thieves cash in during tax season.
“If they’ve got your social security number or your [Individual Taxpayer Identification number] and some other personal information, they’ll be able to file before you do,” Sandbrink said. “Guard all your personal information – your bank account information, your credit card numbers; all your personally identifiable information.”
Sandbrink said divorcées can also be targeted and are encouraged to cut all financial ties when they decide to part ways.
“If you’ve given power of attorney to an ex-spouse, be sure to revoke it,” Sandbrink said. “They can file taxes even after the separation.”
Even minor oversights, like a wrong account number, can be disastrous to you and a boon to someone else, Sandbrink said.
“Taxes might be stolen after they’re sent, but we typically find that filers put the wrong bank account number and their return goes to the wrong person,” Sandbrink said. “Make sure that you verify your account number and that you’re giving [your tax preparer] the right information.”
You have some options when you file, said Sandbrink, who suggests that one is safer than the other.
“Your two options are to e-file or to mail your return paperwork,” Sandbrink said, “We do both here. We prepare your returns, and we can e-file it, or print it off and you can mail it in. We recommend you e-file – you won’t have to worry about any mail fraud, and you’ll get your return faster.”
Story by G. Anthonie Riis