BBB urges care in finding a tax preparer and avoiding scams

January 15, 2014

January is the month when employers are required to provide tax documents, W-2 or 1099 forms, to employees in order for them to be able to file their annual taxes. 

It is also a time of year when scammers and disreputable tax preparers come out of the woodwork to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers by making promises that are too good to be true or stealing information in order to commit identity theft. 

Better Business Bureau of Acadiana is reminding consumers to guard against this when filing for the 2013 tax season. Frauds can and will utilize stolen personal data to manipulate large tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service or simply steal information to commit identity theft. 

According to the Federal Trade Commission’s 2012 ConsumerSentinel Network Data Book, identity theft complaints indicate that a growing number of victims are facing “government documents or benefits fraud,” with 43.4 percent claiming “tax or wage related fraud.”

It is important to choose a reputable tax preparer and not fall victim to tax-related scams. 

One of the most common tax scams involves phishing for your private information by someone who is impersonating the IRS.They may say that there is a problem with your refund and they need your personal and/or financial information to resolve the issue. 

These phishing attempts have been known to happen via phone or email. Consumers should know that the IRS does not correspond with the public in this manner. 

Unethical tax preparers have been known to skim part of their clients’ refunds, overcharge for services and attract clients by making promises that are too good to be true. 

According to the IRS, federal courts have issued hundreds of injunctions ordering individuals to cease preparing returns and the Department of Justice has pending complaints against dozens of others. 

BBB offers the following tips to have a problem-free tax season: 

·        Beware of any phishing emails or phone calls that seem to be from the IRS or your bank. Do not give any personal information or click on any links. 

·        Contact the IRS or your bank directly if you receive such a correspondence. Ask them if they are trying to get in touch with you. They are likely NOT and you should forward them the email you received for them to investigate. 

·        Beware of anyone who pressures you to sign up for immediate payment of your refund that involves high interest loan. Consider these options carefully and do not be high-pressured. 

·        Beware of those that boast they can get larger refunds than their competitors. 

·        Beware of anyone who bases their fee on a percentage of the refund amount, rather than the complexity of the tax return. 

·        Choose carefully when hiring an individual or firm to prepare your return. All paid tax preparers must sign the return they prepare and enter their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).

Better Business Bureau works for a trustworthy marketplace by maintaining standards for truthful advertising, investigating and exposing fraud against consumers and businesses.For more than 100 years, BBB has helped consumers make smarter buying decisions and is evolving to meet fast-changing marketplace needs. 

BBB of Acadiana services the parishes of Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Martin, St.Landry and Vermilion.