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January 26, 2021

Avoid Four Common Tax Season Scams

As you prepare for tax season, we want you to be aware of some common IRS and tax scams. These scams can happen any time of the year, but they tend to be more prevalent during tax season. Scammers use tax-refund time in particular to target victims through various email phishing scams, fraud schemes, phone scams and other illegal or deceptive activities.

“I am from the IRS, and you may be arrested if…”

Beware: Phone calls from anyone claiming to be an IRS employee threatening to sue or criminally charge you for tax evasion. The fraudsters impersonating IRS employees may promise to help you clear up the matter for a small fee. They may threaten to contact “the authorities” if you don’t do as they instruct. Often, they will get agitated or angry if you question them, or they may calmly try to trick you with legalese-sounding language and threats. If someone calls and does any of these things, hang up immediately. If you are unsure if you owe back taxes and want to verify, you should call the IRS directly at their official published phone number.
Fact: The real IRS will attempt to reach you by mail regarding delinquent taxes first. They will never call to demand immediate payment, demand that you pay taxes without the chance to question or appeal the amount they say you owe or threaten to bring in law-enforcement officers. If an actual IRS representative visits you, he or she will always provide two forms of official credentials: a pocket commission and an HSPD-12 card. You have the right to see these credentials and verify their identity with the IRS. Here’s how to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door.

“I am calling from the IRS. Please verify your information…”

Beware: Phone calls, text messages or emails asking for your personal information. Scammers can impersonate the IRS with fake phishing emails or calls aimed at gathering your personal information. They may even try to trick you into giving away personal information, such as Social Security and bank account numbers.
Fact: The IRS will never solicit personal information over the phone or email.

“I’ve completed your return and you’ll get a refund three times larger than last year. Now, you just need to sign and mail it in…”

Beware: “Ghost” tax preparers who fill out your taxes but do not sign the return. Instead of signing, these phony tax preparers will tell you to sign and mail it to the IRS. They usually promise you a large tax refund for a percentage of the return.
Fact: All legal, paid tax preparers must sign the tax return, and anyone operating otherwise is likely a fraudster seeking to steal your money and information. Don’t be victim to ghost tax return preparers.

“I can qualify you for tons of extra deductions to boost your refund! I only accept payment in cash.”

Beware: Tax preparers who require payment in cash only, do not provide a receipt, invent income to erroneously qualify their clients for tax credits, claim fake deductions to boost refunds, or direct refunds into their own bank account rather than the taxpayer’s account. Qualified tax preparers should never do any of these things.
Fact: You can report suspicious tax preparation practices to the IRS. Read more about how to make a complaint against a tax preparer.

The IRS urges taxpayers to review their tax return carefully before signing and ask questions if something is not clear. For any direct deposit refund, taxpayers should make sure both the routing and bank account number on the completed tax return are correct.

If you believe you may have fallen victim to an IRS tax scam, you should report it to the FTC and notify Grow Financial by calling 800.839.6328Learn more about these and other scams.

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