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Stay alert: Protect yourself from fraud this tax season

A tax adviser prepares a tax return for a family in San Jose, California in this 2007 file photo. Even tax preparers are targets in the latest rounds of tax refund fraud schemes that have affected more than 10,000 people since 2012, according to the IRS.
A tax adviser prepares a tax return for a family in San Jose, California in this 2007 file photo. Even tax preparers are targets in the latest rounds of tax refund fraud schemes that have affected more than 10,000 people since 2012, according to the IRS. MCT

For scammers, tax season means a chance to make big money. According to the Internal Revenue Service, tax refund fraud schemes affected more than 10,000 people, 1.72 million returns, and more than $11.4 billion in refunds claimed since 2012.

Even tax preparers are targets. Here’s a look at scams and precautions making the rounds:

▪ Tricking tax preparers: In this new email scheme, scammers posing as software developers send emails to tax professionals, saying access to their tax prep software is locked “due to errors in your security details.”

Clicking a link to supposedly fix the problem instead leads to a fake website, where users’ log-in information is used to access preparers’ accounts and steal client information.

▪ Text messages about refunds: Beware of phony texts and emails designed to look like they are from the government or tax software companies, according to the IRS. These queries can ask about refunds, confirming personal information, or filing status. Unsolicited emails and texts should be reported to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.

▪ Driver’s license check: As a precaution, some tax preparers in North Carolina are asking clients for driver’s license numbers. While not an IRS requirement, the N.C. Department of Revenue has encouraged this for the past two years on electronic filings as an additional security measure, according to department spokesman Trevor Johnson. An internal team uses the numbers to ensure a tax refund request is legitimate, he said.

Providing driver’s licenses or state-identification card is a requirement in other states, including New York and Ohio.

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