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Attorney general issues consumer alert on frequent tax season scams ahead of Tax Day

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Tue, Apr 9th 2019 12:40 pm

AG provides tips to avoid scams this tax season, urges New Yorkers to report potential fraud

Ahead of this year’s annual Tax Day, Attorney General Letitia James provided taxpayers with tips to help avoid fraudulent tax schemes. The AG also urged New Yorkers to stay vigilant and report any suspected scams intended to steal personal and financial information from consumers.

“Tax season is ripe with opportunity for scammers to prey on hardworking New Yorkers,” James said. “These bad actors use a wide range of tactics to illegally cheat residents out of their money, including individuals who impersonate the IRS and businesses that bait-and-switch their tax preparation services. Armed with the tips and resources provided by my office, I urge New Yorkers to remain vigilant as they prepare to file their taxes and encourage them to notify my office if they encounter any tax scams.”

Scams New Yorkers should be on the lookout for include, but are not limited to:

•Scammers who impersonate U.S. Treasury Department, the IRS, the Taxpayer Advocate Service, or other government officials and call taxpayers in an attempt to collect phony tax debts;

•Scammers who claim consumers owe past tax debts and insist consumers pay using a prepaid credit card or gift card;

•Tax preparation businesses that advertise low fees to get the customer in the door, then increase the final fee by hundreds of dollars claiming the tax return was more complicated than anticipated;

•Taxpayers receiving an unexpectedly large “tax refund” from the IRS, which they then must return, because it was stolen from another individual.

In order to help New Yorkers avoid tax scams, James offers the following tips:

•If you owe money, you will receive a legitimate notice in writing that identifies the agency and the reason you owe money;

•Do not give out personal information, including your Social Security number, bank account information, or other payment information, to telephone callers;

•Legitimate government organizations will never threaten arrest or deportation for failure to pay a debt;

•Legitimate government agencies will never insist consumers pay a debt only via a pre-paid credit card, gift card, or wire transfer.

The following suggestions will help consumers file their tax returns safely and keep more of their return:

•Only use established and recognizable companies for tax-preparation services;

•Check the tax preparer's qualifications and history through the Better Business Bureau;

•Ask for a written estimate of all fees. Avoid those who base their fees on a percentage of your refund;

•Avoid tax preparers that promise cash for preparing the return, but in fact merely offer a discount on inflated fees;

•Make sure the tax preparer is accessible, even after the April due date;

•Never sign a blank return;

•Review entire return before signing;

•Make sure the preparer signs the tax form and includes a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN);

•Consult New York's “Consumer Bill of Rights Regarding Tax Preparers.”

In addition to being vigilant consumers, New Yorkers should report potential scams to the office of the attorney general by submitting a complaint online or calling the consumer hotline at 1-800-771-7755. Scams should also be reported to the U.S. Treasury inspector general for tax administration at 800-366-4484.

Consumers can avoid the costs of refund anticipation loans and checks by filing their return electronically and having refunds either mailed or directly deposited into their own bank account.

The AG reminds New Yorkers there are Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites where consumers can get their tax returns prepared free of charge.

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