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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

BBB Tip of the Week: Beware of tax season scams

Marketplace Director

By now you should have received your W-2 form in order to file your 2017 taxes. These tax forms are easy to identify because of their unique size and shape. Tax forms contain your most sensitive information and are a very quick way for scammers to commit tax identity theft and fraud.

Tax identity theft occurs when someone gets access to your Social Security number and uses it to get a tax refund or secure employment. You’ll discover it occurred when you receive a letter from the IRS stating more than one tax return was filed in your name, or IRS records show you have wages from an employer you do not know.

Better Business Bureau suggests you be on the lookout for these scams:

Impostor scams: Scammers pose as IRS agents and pressure victims by demanding money or threatening jail time. Fraudsters may spoof phone numbers, so the call appears to be coming from the IRS or local law enforcement. Be wary of unsolicited phone calls, emails or letters purported to be from the IRS or any official-sounding government agency.

Tax relief scams: Watch for deceptive advertisements claiming to reduce a person’s tax liability greatly. Scammers will use official looking IRS notices or websites to sway people into paying unnecessary money or divulging private and personal information.

ID theft: Scammers use stolen personal information, Social Security numbers and false W-2 information to file fraudulent tax returns in the victim’s name. In some cases, thieves steal W-2s out of unsecured mailboxes.

Phishing emails: The Internal Revenue Service is urging all employers to educate their payroll personnel about a Form W-2 phishing scam. The Form W-2 scam has emerged as one of the more dangerous phishing emails in the tax community. Cybercriminals trick payroll personnel or people with access to payroll information into disclosing sensitive information for entire workforces. The scam affected all types of employers, from small and large businesses to public schools and universities, hospitals, tribal governments and charities.

To protect your identity this tax season, take the following precautions:

Use qualified and reputable professionals. If having your taxes prepared for you, be sure to use qualified preparers and make sure they include their Preparer Tax Identification Number. Be wary of preparers who guarantee high-value tax returns. Be cautious of preparers who tell you that you need to obtain other services from them in order for them to complete your taxes. Other services may be notary services, immigration services or sending registered letters.

E-file only from secure computers. Make sure antivirus software is up to date and never use public Wi-Fi to file tax returns. Don’t file taxes from a link in an email.

Educate staff. Remind your employees they need to be careful and to keep their W-2 safe. Train payroll staff and employees to be wary of any email appearing to be coming from the IRS, because it could be a phishing scam.