Avoid These Common Tax Scams

BBB Urges the Public to Be Cautious This Tax Season
January 23, 2017

With tax season underway and Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week set to kick-off Jan. 31, Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest, the Washington Attorney General's Office and Oregon Department of Justice are reminding the public to be vigilant with their personal information. 

Tax collection scams were the most reported fraud cases to BBB in 2016 with more than 7,500 reported.  

“Tax scams are pervasive, which makes it all the more important for consumers to have the tools they need to protect themselves,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. “Know how to protect your personal information and spot a scam, and keep your hard-earned tax return where it belongs.” 

BBB serving the Northwest is urging consumers to be wary of unsolicited phone calls, emails or letters purported to be from the IRS or any official-sounding government agency.  

Watch for these common tax related scams:  

  • Impostor Scams: Scammers pose as IRS agents and instill fear in victims by demanding money or threatening jail time. Fraudsters will spoof phone numbers so that the call appears to be coming from the IRS or local law enforcement. There’s been some cases where cons obtain a victim’s personal information, adding credence to the demand for money. 

  • Tax Relief Scams: Watch for deceptive advertisements claiming to greatly reduce a person’s tax liability. Scammers will use official looking IRS notices or websites to sway people into paying unnecessary money or divulging private and personal information. 

  • ID theftScammers use stolen personal information, social security numbers and falsified W-2 information to file fraudulent tax returns in the victim’s name. In some cases, thieves stole W-2’s out of unsecured mailboxes. 

To protect your identity this tax season, please take the following precautions. 

  • If having your taxes prepared for you, be sure to only go to qualified preparers and make sure they include their PTIN. 

  • Beware of preparers who guarantee high value tax returns.  

  • Be cautious of preparers who tell you that you need to obtain other services from them in order for them to complete your taxes. Other services may be notary services, immigration services, or sending registered letters. 

  • E-file only from secure computers. Make sure anti-virus software is up-to-date and never use public Wi-Fi to file tax returns. 

  • Don’t file taxes from a link in an email. 

Consumers can report a scam to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration or the Federal Trade Commission. To find a trusted tax preparer visit go.bbb.org. 

ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. BBB Northwest serves more than 14 million consumers in Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Western Wyoming.