As Washingtonians prepare for another tax season, Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington, along with several federal agencies—is reminding them to beware of scams and identity theft.
According to the Internal Revenue Service and BBB investigators, an aggressive and sophisticated phone scam continues to run rampant. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, using fake names and bogus identification badge numbers. Victims are told they owe money and must pay through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses, the scammers threaten with arrest, deportation or suspension of a driver’s license.
“These criminals try to scare and shock you into providing personal financial information on the spot while you are off guard,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “Don’t be taken in and don’t engage these people over the phone.”
According to BBB scheme records, the IRS scam remains at the top of the list with 64 reports in 2014.
“The impostors cast a wide net in hopes of catching unsuspecting consumers when they are the most vulnerable,” says Tyler Andrew, CEO of BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. “We’ve even seen instances where the scammers claim to have a refund check for the victim in hopes of tricking them into sharing private information.”
In an effort to promote awareness, the Federal Trade Commission kicked offTax Identity Theft Awareness Week today. The agency has provided a list of tools to help consumers prevent phishing, preparer fraud and other scams. The FTC will host a webinar to educate the public.
BBB encourages consumers to be aware of tax season scams and offers this advice on filing safely:
- Identify scam calls: The IRS will never call taxpayers to demand a payment or require them to use a specific payment method for their taxes. The agency will also never threaten to bring in local police to arrest a consumer for not paying.
- Hire a trusted tax preparer: Consumers should be careful when choosing tax preparers. Unscrupulous preparers file false and fraudulent tax returns to defraud their clients. BBB has a list of BBB Accredited accountants that consumers can trust.
- File a complaint: Consumers who have been a victim of tax scams or identity theft should file a report with BBB or the FTC.