Chief Terence M. Delehanty and the Winthrop Police Department would like to remind residents to be vigilant this tax season to avoid falling victim to tax-related scams.
In recent years, thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and vital personal information to scammers who use traditional mail, telephone calls and email to scam individuals and businesses alike.
According to the IRS, the three most common types of scams are IRS-impersonation telephone scams, malware schemes and email phishing scams prompting people to update their IRS e-file.
The scams often involve scammers asking for personal information or telling victims they owe money to the IRS, usually in an aggressive or threatening way. With email schemes, taxpayers are often tricked into thinking they are receiving official communications from the IRS with websites and emails imitating official sites.
The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media to request personal or financial information. Additionally, the IRS does not threaten taxpayers with lawsuits, imprisonment or other enforcement actions.
"As residents begin filing their taxes we want to make sure they're aware of these scams," Chief Delehanty said. "We've dealt with scams in the past and know how manipulative scammers can be. Please do not hesitate to call the police department if you think you're being targeted by a scam or if you feel that your personal information has been compromised."
In addition to common scams, the IRS combats tax-related identity theft, as well as tax return preparer fraud. To avoid falling victim to ID theft and preparer fraud, the IRS shares the following tips:
- Make sure to always protect your records. Do not carry your social security card or other documents with your SSN on them.
- Protect your personal information at home and protect your computers with anti-spam and antivirus software. Routinely change passwords for Internet accounts.
- If your SSN is compromised and you think you may be the victim of tax-related ID theft, file a police report. You can also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission using the FTC Complaint Assistant.
- Once you file a police report, make sure to file an IRS Form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit.
- If you fall victim to tax-related ID theft, contact one of the three credit bureaus so they can place a freeze on your account.
- If you learn about a data breach that may compromise your personal information, keep in mind that not every data breach results in ID theft. Make sure you know what type of information has been stolen in order to take appropriate next steps.
Return Preparer Fraud
- Be careful when selecting the tax professional who will prepare your tax return.
- Avoid return preparers who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers
- Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the amount of the refund
- Use a reputable tax professional that signs and enters a preparer tax identification number (PTIN) on your tax return and provides you with a copy for your records
- Consider whether the individual or firm will be around to answer questions about the preparation of your tax return, months, even years after the return has been filed
- Never sign a blank tax form
- Ask questions. Find out if anyone you know has used the tax professional and if they were satisfied with their service
For more information on tax-related scams and how to avoid them, please visit the IRS website.