The Canton Regional and Greater West Virginia Better Business Bureau offers tips and advice for consumers to avoid fraudulent practices.
Today's topic: IRS warns of the "Dirty Dozen"
The concern: Every year, the IRS compiles their "Dirty Dozen," a list of common scams that can affect taxpayers at any time of the year, but strike more often during filing season as consumers finalize their tax returns.
How the scam works:
Phishing schemes Criminals pose as a person or organization the taxpayer trusts or recognizes. They may hack an email account and send mass emails under another person's name. They may pose as a bank, credit card company, tax software provider or government agency. Criminals go to great lengths to create websites that appear legitimate but contain phony log-in pages. These criminals hope victims will take the bait and provide money, passwords, Social Security numbers and other information that can lead to identity theft.
Business email compromise (BEC) / W-2 phishing scam Cybercriminals use spoofing techniques to disguise an email to make it appear as if it is from an organization executive. The email is sent to an employee in the payroll or human resources departments, requesting a list of all employees and their W-2s "for a quick review." But it's not real, and those who reply are sending employees' names, Social Security numbers and income information to scammers, who then file fraudulent returns for tax refunds.
Tax identity theft Tax-related identity theft involves scams with the intent to steal personal and financial data from taxpayers or data held by tax professionals. One such way is when a scammer uses a stolen Social Security number to file a fraudulent tax return and claiming the refund. It also happens when someone uses your SSN to earn wages, and sticks you with the tax bill.
Fake charities Groups masquerade as charitable organizations to attract donations from unsuspecting contributors. One type of abuse or fraud involves scams that occur in the wake of significant natural disasters. Scam artists impersonate charities to get money or private information from well-intentioned taxpayers. Scammers can use a variety of tactics; some operate bogus charities and contact people by telephone or email to solicit money or financial information. They may even directly contact disaster victims and claim to be working for or on behalf of the IRS to help the victims file casualty loss claims and get tax refunds.
Tips to avoid these scams:
File early. File your tax return as early as possible to avoid a scammer filing instead.
Be secure. Use a secure internet connection if you file electronically, or mail your tax return directly from the post office.
Know the IRS. The IRS will not contact you by email, text or social media. If the IRS needs information, it will contact you by mail.
Be aware of your credit. Check your credit report for free at annualcreditreport.com to make sure there are no unauthorized accounts.
Protect personal data. Don't routinely carry a Social Security card, and make sure tax records are secure. Treat personal information like cash; don't leave it lying around.
Know phishing. Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening phone calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations such as a bank, credit card company and government organizations, including the IRS. Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails.
Be informed. To see the remaining "Dirty Dozen" and find more tax-time tips, visit the IRS website.