FBI: Be aware of tax-related scams, fraud


As the much-dreaded date of April 15 creeps up on us, the FBI is warning taxpayers to be aware of tax-related fraud.

Mollie Halpern, of the FBI, spoke with David Farquhar, a unit chief in the FBI’s Financial Crimes Section, about scams criminals are using to get your money.

One scam includes the criminal making an unsolicited phone call in which he claims to be from the IRS and demands you pay taxes that you don't actually owe.

"They’ll create a sense of urgency, and they’ll be very intimidating, and they’ll tell you that you need to pay, and it’ll cost you more, and there will be all these penalties," Farquhar said.

But Halpern urges taxpayers to not be hasty.

"Resist the pressure to act quickly," she said. "Contact the IRS directly through an alternate way."

Another scam involves emails that appear to be from the IRS. Farquhar said that while some of the information in the email may be real, other parts of it aren't. It may contain a link that will send you right into the scammer's trap.

"If the email or person insists that you use a particular method of payment, it's a red flag and you're likely being scammed," Halpern said.

Scammers are also accepting gift cards, which criminals can easily convert into money.

"The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, received nearly 400 complaints about the gift card twist in 2016," Halpern said. "That’s a significant jump compared to the year before, when IC3 received only five complaints about it."

The IC3 also sees an uptick in identity theft and fraudulent tax returns at this time of the year.

"It’s a little bit of a race between the criminals and the rest of us as to who will file whose taxes first," Farquhar said.

Halpern said the criminals will use your personally identifiable information to file your taxes and get an inflated return, or they will use corrupt tax preparation companies or online tax software to file fake returns in your name.

Farquhar said they can do any of those things with very little information.

"You would only know that happened after you try to file your own taxes," he said.

Halpern said if you fall victim to stolen identity refund fraud, you should contact your local FBI or IRS field office.

In addition, should you become a victim of the IRS impersonation scam, report it at www.treasury.gov/tigta.

You can also file a complaint to the IC3 if you receive a fraudulent email claiming to be from the IRS.

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