Weekly Crime Prevention Message From Sheriff Wayne Ivey: Tax Season Scam Tips

By  //  February 28, 2017

never give information over telephone or email

ABOVE VIDEO: The IRS warns taxpayers about an increasing number of tax scams in communities across the country. For even more information go to IRS.gov and type “scam” in the search box.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – As everyone knows we are right in the middle of “Tax” season and in fact are fast approaching April 15th, the deadline for filing our taxes.

Since it’s “Tax” season for us it’s “Fraud” season for the criminals and an opportunity for them to victimize as many people as they possibly can.

With that in mind I thought we would focus this week’s Crime Prevention message on avoiding scams and protecting our identities.

While unfortunately, we must always be concerned about fraud and scams, there is no doubt that tax season brings with it an increase in victimization and the targeting of our citizens.

The simple rule to avoid becoming a victim of scams is to never give personal information over the telephone or through email to anyone who contacts you.

For example, if a caller leaves a voicemail with a return number never call that number back, but instead research the organization and find the true assigned number instead of the number you were given by the caller.

ABOVE VIDEO: Tax fraud schemes have turned into a national epidemic. Here are a few steps you can take to protect yourself this filing season.

This method of protection is also effective in avoiding scams that occur through emails, face-to-face contacts, social media, and even text messaging.

One of the scam methods often utilized by the criminals at tax time is to contact a citizen by telephone and inform them that they did not pay their previous year’s taxes and owe the IRS money.

The caller will then tell the intended victim that if they do not settle the owed amount immediately they will be arrested. The caller pretends to be from the IRS and solicits a credit card to satisfy the owed amount.

Please know that the IRS does not operate in this capacity and that you are not going to be arrested for refusing to provide a credit card number.

If you encounter this type of scam quickly hang up the telephone and report it to your local Law Enforcement agency so we can alert other citizens that it is occurring in their area. In addition to the above prevention tips, below is a list of suggestions that the IRS offers to avoid becoming the victim of fraud during tax season.

Phone Scams: Phone calls from criminals impersonating IRS agents remain an ongoing threat to taxpayers.

The IRS has seen a surge of these phone scams in recent years as scam artists threaten taxpayers with police arrest, deportation and license revocation, among other things.

As everyone knows we are right in the middle of “Tax” season and in fact are fast approaching April 15th, the deadline for filing our taxes.

Return Preparer Fraud: Be on the lookout for unscrupulous return preparers.

The vast majority of tax professionals provide honest high-quality service. But there are some dishonest preparers who set up shop each filing season to perpetrate refund fraud, identity theft and other scams that hurt taxpayers. Legitimate tax professionals are a vital part of the U.S. tax system.

Offshore Tax Avoidance: The recent string of successful enforcement actions against offshore tax cheats and the financial organizations that help them shows that it’s a bad bet to hide money and income offshore.

Taxpayers are best served by coming in voluntarily and getting caught up on their tax-filing responsibilities. The IRS offers the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) to enable people catch up on their filing and tax obligations.

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Inflated Refund Claims: Taxpayers need to be on the lookout for anyone promising inflated refunds.

Be wary of anyone who asks taxpayers to sign a blank return, promises a big refund before looking at their records, or charges fees based on a percentage of the refund.

Scam artists use flyers, advertisements, phony store fronts and word of mouth via community groups where trust is high to find victims.

ABOVE VIDEO: The majority of the 1 million public charities in America operate in ways that are efficient, ethical and effective. But there are also scammers posing as real charities attempting to take advantage of donors’ goodwill. Find out how you can spot a fake charity before you donate.

Fake Charities: Be on guard against groups masquerading as charitable organizations to attract donations from unsuspecting contributors. Be wary of charities with names similar to nationally-known organizations.

Contributors should take a few extra minutes to ensure their hard-earned money goes to legitimate and currently eligible charities.

IRS.gov has the tools taxpayers need to check out the status of charitable organizations.

Falsely Padding Deductions on Returns: Taxpayers should avoid the temptation of falsely inflating deductions or expenses on their returns to under pay what they owe or possibly receive larger refunds.

Think twice before overstating deductions such as charitable contributions and business expenses or improperly claiming such credits as the Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit.

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Excessive Claims for Business Credits: Avoid improperly claiming the fuel tax credit, a tax benefit generally not available to most taxpayers. The credit is generally limited to off-highway business use, including use in farming.

Taxpayers should also avoid misuse of the research credit. Improper claims generally involve failures to participate in or substantiate qualified research activities and/or satisfy the requirements related to qualified research expenses.

Falsifying Income to Claim Credits: Don’t invent income to erroneously qualify for tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. Taxpayers are sometimes talked into doing this by scam artists.

Taxpayers are best served by filing the most-accurate return possible because they are legally responsible for what is on their return.

This scam can lead to taxpayers facing big bills to pay back taxes, interest and penalties. In some cases, they may even face criminal prosecution.

ABOVE VIDEO: Be wary of strange emails and websites that may be nothing more than scams to steal personal information.

Phishing: Taxpayers need to be on guard against fake emails or websites looking to steal personal information.

The IRS will never send taxpayers an email about a bill or refund out of the blue. Don’t click on one claiming to be from the IRS.

Be wary of strange emails and websites that may be nothing more than scams to steal personal information.

Abusive Tax Shelters: Don’t use abusive tax structures to avoid paying taxes. The IRS is committed to stopping complex tax avoidance schemes and the people who create and sell them.

The vast majority of taxpayers pay their fair share, and everyone should be on the lookout for people peddling tax shelters that sound too good to be true.

When in doubt, taxpayers should seek an independent opinion regarding complex products they are offered.

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Frivolous Tax Arguments: Don’t use frivolous tax arguments to avoid paying tax. Promoters of frivolous schemes encourage taxpayers to make unreasonable and outlandish claims Even though they are wrong and have been repeatedly thrown out of court.

While taxpayers have the right to contest their tax liabilities in court, no one has the right to disobey the law or disregard their responsibility to pay taxes.

The penalty for filing a frivolous tax return is $5,000.

As always thank you so much for helping us protect our community and for sharing this information with your family and friends!!

 – Sheriff Wayne Ivey