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Fraud Watch: how to avoid scammers this tax season

Posted at 9:55 AM, Jan 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-24 11:55:37-05

HELENA – Tax season officially begins on Monday, and that means scammers are also up to old tricks hoping to get rich off unsuspecting consumers.

This year, the most common scam is one that has been going around for a while.

Hannah Stiff, the Better Business Bureau’s Marketplace Director for Montana, said it starts like many other scams – with a phone call.

“Someone calls saying that they’re an agent from the IRS. And what that entails is typically someone picks up the phone and this agent says that the person on the phone – the victim – owes back taxes,” Stiff said.

This call should sound alarm bells for wise consumers immediately. For one, the IRS won’t use a phone call to reach out to you first; any communications will originate in the mail.

“If one day they did need to call, they’ll always give you a chance to appeal what you owe,” Stiff said.

Second, these scam calls often have a sense of urgency, even saying you could to jail if you don’t settle up.

The third red flag is the type of payment the caller requests. Like many scams, the perpetrator wants you to pay with largely untraceable methods including gift cards and wire transfers.

Stiff also said to remember to guard your W-2. There’s a wealth of information like your Social Security number on that document that scammers can use to pose as you and steal your tax return.

One of those best ways to avoid that is to file your taxes early.

“It gives scammers less of a chance to steal your information,” Stiff said. “File that return and you end up with a huge headache if your identity is stolen and someone files taxes on your behalf.”

The Better Business Bureau encourages consumers to report any scam related experiences to their online scam tracking portal. You can find more tips to avoid getting scammed during tax season on the BBB’s website.

-Jacob Fuhrer reporting for MTN News