Watch out for tax scams

Watch out for tax scams

January 01, 2012 11:06 PM
Tax scam tips:
• Always check on the legitimacy of the tax preparation service you are going to use. Always use a licensed and established preparer or company.

• If you receive an email from any tax preparation software company, do not open them or click on any link. If you actually need an upgrade, go directly to the company’s secure site.

• Try never to leave any mail in your mailbox for an extended period of time.

• Use a locking mail box or a P.O. Box to ensure your mail is secure.

Sources: Internal Revenue Service, Karen Hunt with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Victorville station,

www.Scambusters.com

With the new year here, many are already thinking about filing their taxes, but the IRS warns people to beware of numerous tax scams designed not only to defraud the IRS but also to bilk unsuspecting victims of their returns.

At least two types of tax scams have documented locally, according to San Bernardino County Sheriff’s officials.

“We’ve seen cases where unwitting victims will go to a tax preparer they learned about through a flier or some other similar means but when it’s time to pick up their returns from the location, they find out it’s gone,” Karen Hunt, spokeswoman for the Victorville station, said.

She went on to explain that the preparers would push the victims to have their returns put on a debit card instead of a check. The fraudsters also convinced them it would be safer to have the refund sent to their office.

“But it’s not just their money,” she noted. “The preparers now have a lot of their personal information including their Social Security number.”

Hunt advises people do their homework before going to a tax professional.

Scammers also try to obtain a filer’s social security number or other personal information in order to claim the victim’s tax return, according to authorities with the IRS.

There have been reports of mail being stolen from private mailboxes throughout the Victor Valley. There have also been reports of drop-off boxes in Victorville and Adelanto being vandalized and mail taken from them, according to sheriff’s and local postal service officials.

One of the largest and most costly scams use information taken from mailboxes but also through online phishing scams, according to the IRS website.

Among the most prevalent is the “Turbo Tax scam,” so named because scammers will send out phony emails using the legitimate tax preparation software company’s name, according to IRS and Internet Crime Complain Center reports.

The email tells the victim they need to do an upgrade on their software in order to be in compliance with new tax laws and provides a link in the email, officials said. The link takes the victim to a fraudulent website which appears to be legitimate. At this point the victim will either download a virus instead of the upgrade or they are asked to enter personal information to confirm they are the software holder.

The criminals will then use the information to again file taxes with the IRS and have the returns sent to them, according to authorities.

“People have to be vigilant and always make sure they know who they are going to prepare their taxes,” Hunt said. “You are handing over very sensitive information and you want to make sure the person you’re giving it to is a professional.”

Anyone who feels they may have been victimized by any of these scams should report it to their local law enforcement authorities and the IRS by logging onto www.IRS.gov.

Beatriz E. Valenzuela may be reached at (760) 951-6276 or at BValenzuela@VVDailyPress.com.


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