For many consumers, the tax filing season is “taxing” enough without having to worry about whether they’re being scammed during the process.
According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), they are seeing a surge of scam artists impersonating tax agents, contacting taxpayers by phone and demanding money from them.
“There are a couple of things that should set off red flags for taxpayers,” said Franchise Tax Board (FTB) spokesperson Jacob Roper. “The first is beware of anyone calling and asking you to pay your due balance via pre-loaded debit cards. The second is threatening to send the local police to your home to arrest you if you don’t comply.”
Roper adds that scammers also prey on the elderly knowing that their “strong sense of civic duty” will often scare them into paying.
“When consumers receive a call from an FTB employee, generally it will be only after they have received one or more notices,” adds Roper. “The best way for consumers to avoid these scams is to know the scammers schemes and keep your guard up.”
Unfortunately, being vigilant against these scammers isn’t always easy. The callers are aggressive and threatening. Remember, neither the IRS nor FTB will ever:
- Call and demand immediate payment and threaten arrest.
- Call without giving consumers an opportunity to discuss a potential tax dispute.
- Call and ask for your credit card numbers.
- Call and ask for payment via pre-paid debit cards.
Additionally, before the FTB calls a taxpayer, Roper says the agency mails notices to those with tax issues. These notices not only provide consumers the opportunity to voluntarily resolve outstanding tax liability, they also inform them of their legal rights and responsibilities.
Consumers, who believe a call is a scam, should hang up the phone immediately and report the scam to the IRS. You can also call 800.852.5711 to inquire about the status of your account or to verify if the caller is indeed an FTB employee.
The IRS website at www.irs.gov has additional information to help consumers recognize scams as well as tips on avoiding becoming a tax scam victim.
The Department of Consumer Affairs’ California Board of Accountancy is also a good tax resource for consumers. Did you know that California is one of the few states that has mandatory requirements for professional tax preparers?
State law requires anyone who prepares tax returns for a fee to be either an attorney, certified public accountant (CPA), a California Tax Education Council (CTEC) registered tax preparer (CRTP) or an enrolled agent (EA).
Choosing a tax preparer who is not one of those four professionals may prevent you from legal recourse against any type of tax fraud. It may also increase your chances for additional taxes, interest and fines. Always verify the legal status of a tax preparer before handing over your private tax information.
For more information about the California Board of Accountancy, visit their website at www.dca.ca.gov/cba.