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It’s Halloween: Avoid scammers in disguise!

It’s a scary time! Your individual tax return is frightening enough, but now the number of tax-related identity theft and fraud victims continues to increase exponentially. You may view the Internal Revenue Service as an agency separating you from your money; it’s actually working hard to protect you from fraud.

We recently posted a blog warning you of scammers claiming to represent the IRS and demanding money. These phone calls continue and you—along with nearly ¾ of a million other people—may have already spoken to or received a voicemail from a scammer.

Don’t be fooled! You’ll always receive a notice in the mail before an IRS agent calls. If you do owe and want to pay by credit or debit card, you must go online; the IRS doesn’t accept card payments over the phone. If you can’t question or appeal the amount you owe, hang up!

Another approach thieves use is to tug on your heart strings during an emotional time. Often when a disaster occurs, such as the recent severe flooding, fake charities blossom and multiply.

If you want credit for your donations, make sure you know the organization you’re benefiting. You can check tax exempt status on the IRS website.

Some of these scammers use names similar to well-known organizations—don’t be tricked! Even if you’re not concerned about a tax deduction, confirm your money went to the worthy cause you intended.

Other safeguards include:

  • Don’t donate cash.
  • Send a check or credit card information, but don’t share this payment information with unsolicited callers.
  • If you want to give online, avoid bogus websites by not following links in email. Choose your own charity to benefit, and browse independently.

Even as you take these steps and others to protect yourself from fraud, you may file your tax return electronically only to find someone’s already filed using your Social Security number.

The IRS is working on this too, from forming a partnership with the private sector to identify data elements that would help detect and prevent bogus filings, to running pilot programs to test the effect of adding codes to authenticate W2s.

The tax software industry is also doing its part by requiring enhanced validation procedures of its customers.

IRS commissioner John Koskinen assures us, “Taxpayers will have more protection than ever when they file their tax returns.”

Will this effort be enough? If you’re interested in adding another layer of protection, check your eligibility for an Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN).

Note that once you participate in this program, you can’t opt out. Yes, remembering a new number each year and providing it to your tax preparer can be a small hassle, but nothing compared to the months you’ll wait for your refund if an imposter already filed using your SSN.

If you need help with tax planning, preparation or accounting needs, contact the experienced staff at Patrick & Robinson CPAs: or (904) 396-5400.

Happy Trick-or-Treating!

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