A lot of people dread filling out their taxes. The official forms can be confusing and some people are afraid of filing because they think they owe a lot of money or may have been fined penalties for failing to file in the past.
Into this confusion and fear, scammers have begun targeting Montanans, especially now as the tax-filing deadline nears.
The Office of Consumer Protection at the Montana Department of Justice has been researching these schemes. I’m sending out this Scam Alert to let you and your families know about rip-offs so you can keep yourself and your financial information safe.
There’s also some good news to report: A number of free services exist to help Montanans file their taxes, even for people who may think they don’t qualify for such services, people who owe substantial sums or people who have not filed in years.
Additionally, the IRS is now able to turn around a tax return in days and Montanans can now expect to get their returns deposited in their bank accounts in as little as 10 days if they file online.
Here is a look at some of the common scams, followed by links and information about free help with your taxes. Oh, and remember: The IRS has extended the tax filing deadline to April 18.
IRS E-mail Scams: Beware of e-mails purporting to be from the IRS or the U.S. Department of Treasury. Scam artists use tax season to phish for all sorts of personal information, including social security numbers, bank account numbers, pin numbers, names, birthdates, and other valuable information. These e-mails are often convincingly realistic, with government seals and intimidating language. Sometimes the e-mails will even ask the recipient to wire money in order to pay off “fines” or other fees. The e-mail may redirect the recipient to a website which is designed to look like a legitimate government website, but is in fact a fake site used by scammers to steal more information. The actual IRS does not solicit your personal information through e-mail. In fact, they already have your personal information. The real IRS website is http://www.irs.gov/ .
The IRS also offers Taxpayer Assistance Centers in every state, including six in Montana. A complete list is available here. In addition to offering other services, center personnel can tell you if an e-mail you have received is a phishing scam from a criminal seeking your personal financial information or a legitimate correspondence from the federal government.
Misleading Mailers: Some outfits send letters to taxpayers that appear to be official IRS documents warning citizens that the federal government has attached a lien on their home or levied other kinds of fines for failing to pay taxes. In small print, these documents disclose that the sender is not the IRS, but an entity that can help you deal with the IRS. These mailers are misleading and fail to inform taxpayers that free, local help is available in many Montana communities for taxpayers with questions. Often times, this free help is offered regardless of income level. Other programs are available only to lower and middle-income taxpayers.
More details of tax related scams – and places where you can get free help with your taxes – is on our website.
BBB NOTE: Interesting piece from finextra.com reporter, Robert Siciliano warning people that tax-related ID theft cases are up: http://www.finextra.com/community/fullblog.aspx?id=5076
For further tips on what to watch for when hiring a tax preparer, do your research, start with trust, start with BBB at: www.bbb.org Consider using an accredited tax preparer.