IRS warns tax payers against top 2014 tax scams

Identity theft and pervasive phone scams top this year’s “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams released Feb. 19 by the Internal Revenue Service.

“Taxpayers should be on the lookout for tax scams using the IRS name,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in a press release. “These schemes jump every year at tax time. Scams can be sophisticated and take many different forms. We urge people to protect themselves and use caution when viewing e-mails, receiving telephone calls or getting advice on tax issues.”

Identity thieves claim refunds by using stolen identifying information such as names and Social Security numbers to file fraudulent returns. The IRS encourages individuals who have had their personal information stolen to contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490.

Phone scammers generally either threaten victims with jail time because of unpaid taxes or tell them they are entitled to huge refunds.  Recent immigrants are often targeted with a scam that threatens arrest, deportation or suspension of business or driver’s licenses.

Phone scammers often have personal information like the last four digits of a victim’s SSN and can even spoof caller ID systems into making it appear a call is originating from the IRS.  Anyone who receives a phone call purportedly from the IRS should hang up and call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.

The “Dirty Dozen” list also warns against return preparer fraud, encouraging taxpayers to avoid return preparers that promise large refunds, base fees on a percentage of the refund amount, ask filers to sign blank tax forms or that don’t have a preparer tax identification number (PTIN).

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