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Look Out for (and Avoid) Tax Scams

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I was planning on writing this article a couple of months ago, but I got busy (yes that Le-vel thing again.) Fortunately, my wife got a phone call that reminded me to write this. I didn't hear the call, but she quickly hung up and said, "Some kind of tax scam" when I asked who it was.

There's a lot of tax fraud out there. The IRS lists a "Dirty Dozen tax scams".

I'll give you a minute to click and review the list.

For those who didn't take the time here are a couple of common ones. There's identity theft where someone else uses your identity to claim a refund. This is probably the biggest tax scam out there.

Second on the list was the phone call that my wife was referring to.

New scams are always creeping up on the IRS radar. For example the IRS warns people of this one. In short:

"Typically, con artists falsely claim that refunds are available even if the victim went to school decades ago. In many cases, scammers are targeting seniors, people with very low incomes and members of church congregations with bogus promises of free money."

I think there are two main defenses you can use to protect yourself against this fraud. First, it is helpful to grow that critical thinking muscle in your head. Yes the brain. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If someone is calling you up on the phone to offer you something, and you don't know them, it's probably not a good idea. (Incidentally, these are also the kinds of things that can help you avoid many MLM/pyramid scheme scams.)

The second thing you can do is file your taxes sooner. If you get your taxes done quickly, it gives someone less time to steal your identity and beat you to the punch. Unfortunately, this advice comes too late this for this year's taxes. The best way to get them done quickly? In my opinion, TurboTax is the way to go for most people.

Posted on March 31, 2016.

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