“Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” Benjamin Franklin said this over 200 years ago and it still holds true. Yes, unfortunately it’s that time again. Tax Season. But one thing Mr. Franklin never had to deal with was a tax scam artist. Today, on top of trying to figure out complicated tax forms, we also have to navigate our way through a field of phishing emails, shady accountants, and bogus paperwork. Money Talks News founder and CPA Stacy Johnson recently published the top three scams he’s seen over his 20 year career. Check them out and make sure you don’t get duped…
1. Phishing. We’ve all seen the email from the Nigerian prince claiming he’s about to gain a bazillion dollar inheritance but first, he needs two grand and your social security number. He then promises that he’ll repay it ten fold. Most of us have laughed off fake emails but what if a frighteningly real message from “the IRS” popped up? Might be a bit more persuasive. Fortunately, the government is very clear: the IRS has never and will never ask for personal information through email or social media. They’re the IRS; they already know everything about you. If you find one of these scam messages in your inbox, forward them to firstname.lastname@example.org so they can track down the sender, and if you ever get a letter or phone call you’re not sure about, contact the IRS immediately at (800) 908-4490.
2. Fishy accountants. Some find it easy to hire a professional to take care of their taxes. But before you do, make sure he or she really is who they claim to be–there are “accountants” out there who will imply that they can double your refund by fudging numbers or faking info. In exchange for a cut of the extra money of course. A certified account must take the IRS required competency test, continuing education classes, and have an identification number that’s easily verified. Make sure to ask about these things when you look for a tax preparer and remember that you’re the one who signs the return, so you’re responsible for every mistake the IRS finds.
3. False forms. Some scammers use the sheer number of different tax forms to try and bilk you out of your money. If you don’t know what forms to fill out or the rules that each follow, go to the IRS website or see a professional tax preparer. Many websites (especially those ending in .com) are set up just to scam the naïve into giving out their sensitive information. Be careful and always verify the information with the IRS.
Yes, taxes are complicated. And yes, there are a ton of scams out there. But if you don’t do the research to cover your assets, you only have one person to blame—yourself. You know the IRS certainly will.