As you prepare for the April 15th deadline for filing your income tax return with the IRS, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office is encouraging consumers to be extra-vigilant against predatory or downright fraudulent tax relief offers from a tax preparer, suspicious or phishing e-mails, or Stolen Identity Tax Refund Fraud (SIRF). Below are a few scams you should be on the lookout for:
SIRF – Identity thieves are finding new ways everyday to gather personal information in order to file fraudulent tax returns. With stolen social security numbers, crooks are claiming fake income and withholding information in order to claim fraudulent refunds. While there is no fool-proof way to protect your identity, it is wise to: 1).Only give businesses your SSN when required; not just because it is asked for. 2). Don’t give out your SSN over the phone, mail or the internet unless you know who you are dealing with. 3). Check your credit report for free at www.annualcreditreport.com.
Tax software phishing scams – The growing popularity of tax preparation software has led to a rise in e-mail scams targeted at do-it-yourself taxpayers. In addition to stealing financial information, some of these phishing e-mails contain fake web links that could download viruses. To avoid falling prey, do not respond to e-mails requesting your password, log-on or bank account information, particularly one that claims to be from the IRS or a tax software provider. Consumers should remember the IRS does not use e-mail to initiate contact with taxpayers about issues related to their accounts.
Tax relief scams – Beware of tax preparation firms that claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers, who base their fee on a percentage of the amount of the refund, who ask you to sign a blank tax form, or who refuse to provide a preparer tax identification number. Proceed with caution should anyone claim they can free you from having to pay the IRS or can settle debt for pennies on the dollar. For consumers with adjusted gross incomes of $57,000 the IRS offers a “FreeFile” service which you can access at www.freefile.irs.gov.
If you receive a notice from IRS or learn from your tax professional that more than one tax return for you was filed, respond immediately by calling the IRS ID Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490, ext. 245. If you have received a fraudulent e-mail or been contacted by suspicious fraud preparer, contact the Sheriff’s Office Fraud Line at 477-1242.
To arrange to have someone come out to your community to talk about this or another safety or security topic, please contact the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Community Relations Section at (239) 477-1400.