April 1, 2022

Scammer round-up April 2022: Tax Season!

Written by kevin-c

Online Safety

Every month, we here at TextNow look at some of the calling and texting scams being perpetrated by bad actors targeting phone users of all kinds (not just TextNow users) to help you avoid them. We work very hard here to keep scammers and fraudsters off our platform, but with millions of messages and calls sent every day, it's a big job. All of the carriers are in the same boat of trying to restrict their platform to only legitimate users.

This month, it’s tax season so that means plenty of tax scams. Here’s what to look out for.

Tax preparer scams

The tax preparer scam is a lot more straightforward than some of the other more esoteric scams we’ve talked about in these articles. Basically, a fraudulent tax preparer pretends to be a legitimate tax preparer to steal your personal information or, in some cases, to just steal your refund outright. They might also try to fudge the numbers on your tax return to get a bigger refund payout, which you are then left to clear up with the IRS, who are notoriously unsympathetic to such things.

These scammers might attempt to call or email you advertising their services, promising a wildly inflated refund.

One clear sign of a tax scam is if your preparer doesn’t sign the return or gets you to sign it. By law, anyone who is paid to prepare federal tax returns must have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Luckily the IRS has put up a helpful directory of all the credentialed tax preparers in the US. So if you see any red flags, or even if you don’t, check that site to see if your tax preparer is on the up and up.

IRS impersonators

We talked about this in March, but it’s worth repeating again here. A variant of the spoofer scam, this is when the scammer calls you and pretends to be from the IRS, demanding immediate payment for back taxes, often threatening the listener with arrest if they don’t comply. Of course, the IRS doesn’t contact taxpayers over the phone, nor will they threaten you with arrest or demand immediate payment. In the real world the IRS has appeal processes and other mechanisms to deal with disputes.

A sub-variant of the IRS scam you’ll see this month are calllers asking you to verify information so your refund can be processed, including banking or credit card details. Again, the IRS will never call you over the phone for this.

As the IIRS website explains:

The IRS will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.

  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.

  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving taxpayers the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.

  • Call unexpectedly about a tax refund.

Debt consolidation scams

Debt consolidation – companies that essentially buy your debt from different creditors, and then bundle that debt together so you can pay it off in one monthly sum. That in and of itself is not a scam. But, in the case of IRS money owed, you can simply contact the IRS directly and work out a payment schedule – no need to give a third-party money to do it for you.

Identity theft

Another angle that many people forget is how, if a scammer already has your personal info, then they could submit a phony tax return under your name and collect the refund.

Things to remember

As with all scams, it’s good to keep in mind some basic signs you might be a target of a scam.

  • They say you’ve won a prize or owe money that needs immediate action.

  • The scammer threatens you with imprisonment or the suspension of your driver’s license or say that they’ll release a virus on your computer. Any threats usually mean it’s a scammer calling.

  • They instruct you to pay a specific way – money transfer, or gift cards – or demand your credit card info.

Keep alert for these scams and keep your private information private.