3/17/2018 12:30:00 PM It's Tax-Scam Season Sheriff's Corner
By Sheriff Tom Burch
Once again, our office has seen an increase in the number of IRS and Tax related scamming calls and inquiries in the recent weeks. These types of scams are similar to scams and phishing attempts that we have written about before, but there are some new techniques that scammers are using. We want to share some of the information we have learned with you to help keep you scam free and your personal information protected.
Some of the common formats and methods that scammers use to gain personal information or gain trust are in the following methods:
Phishing - Scam artists often impersonate the IRS to lure people into disclosing personal and financial information that can be used to commit the crimes of theft and identity theft. While e-mails are the most common "bait," callers also report receiving calls from fraudsters who claim to be tax officials and instruct them to provide personal and financial information. Scam artists also create phony websites designed to look like the website of a well-known company or government agency to trick consumers into believing they are dealing with an entity they can trust. This is not the format in which the IRS conducts business or attempts contact with you.
Intimidation Scams - Scam artists may impersonate the IRS or Minnesota Department of Revenue to intimidate people into making payments on supposed back taxes. The scam artists often threaten people with arrest, lawsuits and/or imprisonment. They may also demand you make immediate and sometimes unconventional payments. These criminals will say anything to try to get people to send them money and may call over and over in an attempt to wear down potential victims. They can also be very demanding, intimidating and often are reported as using slang and swearing language. Be extra cautious of unknown or foreign numbers and foreign callers. Again, this is not the format in which the IRS conducts business or attempts contact with you.
The MN Attorney General's Office Offers some excellent and easy to follow tips for avoiding tax scams. (https://www.ag.state.mn.us) Some of these are as follows:
Remember never to provide personal or financial information to unknown individuals over the phone or through e-mail or text messages. Be especially cautious to not give any information to any source if you didn't initiate the conversation or phone call. Also, be alert for phony websites created by scam artists attempting to steal information. The MN Attorney General's Office reports that the IRS and Minnesota Department of Revenue do not request personal or financial information from taxpayers by e-mail or text message and do so by phone only in very rare instances. If in doubt, don't give it out. Instead, contact these agencies directly using the contact information listed on their websites or in the tax booklets.
Check your credit report at least once a year and report inaccuracies. Many people first learn they are victims of identity theft by discovering inaccuracies on their credit report. Minnesota residents can obtain a free credit report every twelve months from the three major credit bureaus by calling 1-877-322-8228, online at www.annualcreditreport.com or by writing to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, PO Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
If you hire a tax professional to prepare your return, ask for his or her credentials up front. Be wary of preparers who promise guaranteed refunds or charge a fee based on a percentage of your refund. Always make sure you review your return and ask your preparer questions about entries you don't understand before signing it. Never sign a blank form! You are responsible for all the information on your tax returns regardless of whether someone else prepared it.
We want you and your personal information to be safe and secure and not to be intimidated or tricked by callers who are scammers identifying themselves as IRS or other government officials. Please don't give out personal information and if you are in doubt of what is happening at any time, hang up the phone, delete the text or e-mail or end the conversation. If you have a situation where you are not sure of its validity, please contact our office and we can help ensure its content and help to keep you from becoming the victim of a tax or IRS scam.
If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, please feel free to contact me anytime using one of the following methods: