COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is warning Ohioans to avoid scams this tax season. Since January, the Attorney General’s Office has received about 190 reports of tax-related scams.
“Con artists are very good at what they do,” Attorney General DeWine said. “They rely on scare tactics and surprise. When people get scared, they do irrational things. That’s why we want people to know the warning signs. Awareness can make all the difference.”
Common tax scams include:
-IRS impostor scams – This is the most common tax scam reported to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. It generally begins with a phone call claiming you owe back taxes or that a warrant has been issued for your arrest. You’re told to call a certain number immediately, and eventually, you’re asked to send money or to provide personal information to resolve the supposed problem.
– W-2 phishing scams – This scam targets employers and payroll employees. Typically, an HR or payroll employee receives an email that appears to come from the boss or the head of the organization. The email instructs the employee to send all employees’ W-2s. Although the email may appear to be legitimate, it’s actually part of a phishing scam. (The IRS warned that this scam surged in 2017 and encouraged employers to report any W-2 thefts immediately to the IRS.)
– Tax identity theft – Tax identity theft generally occurs when someone steals your personal information to file a tax return and fraudulently obtain your refund. This year, there are extra concerns about tax identity theft because of data breaches that have exposed individuals’ Social Security numbers and other sensitive information.
Tips to avoid tax scams include:
– File your tax return promptly. This makes it less likely that an impostor will be able to file a tax return in your name to steal your refund.
– Don’t respond to threatening robocalls. If you receive an unexpected phone call from someone who threatens to arrest you for not paying taxes, it’s probably a scam. Don’t respond to the call, and don’t provide payment or personal information over the phone.
– Don’t pay taxes using gift cards. In IRS impostor scams, con artists often ask people to buy gift cards and then read the card numbers over the phone. Using this information, the con artists drain funds from the card, making it difficult to trace or recover the money. The real IRS won’t demand that you pay over the phone using a gift card.
– Protect your personal information. If you file your taxes online, make sure you use a secure internet connection. If you file by mail, take your completed return directly to the post office. Keep sensitive documents in a secure place. Before getting rid of any unneeded documents that contain your Social Security number or other sensitive information, shred them.
– Research tax preparers and tax-preparation companies. Before giving out any personal records or information, check a tax preparer’s credentials. For example, review information in the IRS’s directory of federal tax return preparers. Consider asking trusted friends and family for referrals.
– Watch out for phishing scams. Be wary of email messages that appear to come from your boss, your financial advisor, or your bank and ask you to provide personal information. The message may be part of a phishing scam.
Consumers who want help detecting a potential scam should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.ohioprotects.org or 800-282-0515. IRS or US Treasury impersonation scams can be reported to the US Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at www.treasury.gov/tigta or 800-366-4484. Tax identity theft should be reported to the IRS for federal taxes or the Ohio Department of Taxation for state taxes.