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Phone scams continue to pose threat during tax season

As the April tax filing deadline approaches, criminals are out in full force looking for ways to take your money and personal information. 

According to the Internal Revenue Service one of the most common deceptions during tax season continues to be the telephone scam.

Since October 2013, the IRS says scams have cost more than 14,000 victims across the United States more than $72 million. Of those victims, 160 were from Missouri, losing nearly $500,000 on the phone to a crook.

One growing example of a telephone scam; false claims about your Social Security number. 

Scammers will say your Social Security Number has been suspended because of suspicious activity, or because it's been involved in a crime. Sometimes, the scammer wants you to confirm your Social Security number to reactivate it. Sometimes, they'll say your bank account has been seized, telling you what to do to keep it safe. 

"They really will go to any means necessary to either steal money, or your personal information," Clay Sanford with the IRS said. 

In 2017, nearly 3,000 people reported a Social Security Administration imposter scam, losing nearly $210,000. Nearly one year later, the Federal Trade Commission says that number grew to 35,000 reports with nearly $10 million in losses. 

Sanford wants to remind people that the IRS will never call to demand immediate payment, threaten to bring in law enforcement, ask for credit or debit card over the phone or call about an unexpected refund. Sanford said the IRS can occasionally call after multiple U.S. Mail requests if there is something wrong with your account.

The Social Security Administration wants to remind people that it will never call to threaten your benefits or tell you to wire money or send cash. The administration also says it will never suspend your Social Security number. If a caller claims either of those, it's a dead giveaway it's a scam. 

Social Security and IRS imposter scams aren't the only things to look out for during tax season. Another one is making sure your tax preparer is certified to do the job.

Black market tax preparers set up shop around tax time, usually in a rental or short-term locations. They will often promise fast or large refunds to filers. Also known as "Ghost Tax Preparers," these are uncertified individuals that bypass the tax preparer certification system. The can sometimes calculate your refunds in illegal ways, then they don't sign the return, leaving you on the hook for any errors. 

Some reminders to avoid getting "ghosted" by your tax preparer: 

  • Be wary of those offering fast refunds or large returns 
  • Don't sign your own tax return if asked by a tax preparer 
  • Review your tax return before it's submitted 
  • Only allow funds to be deposited into your personal account. 
ABC 17 News Investigates / News

Deborah Kendrick

Deborah is a weekday morning anchor and investigative reporter for ABC 17 News.

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