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Watch out for con games when filing taxes

Ken Kleinlein

Ken Klein­lein

By Ken Kleinlein

Crime Scene

ENGLEWOOD, Fla. – When fil­ing your income tax,  pro­tect your­self and be alert for con games.

The things to be aware of in order to pro­tect your­self have not changed very much since last year. Famil­iar mis­in­for­ma­tion, scams, and con games that appear each year at tax fil­ing time are sur­fac­ing again along with some new ones.

Most pro­fes­sional tax pre­par­ers are legit­i­mate and qual­i­fied, but be on guard for those that may mis­lead peo­ple as to their cred­i­bil­ity and expertise.

Avoid non-legitimate tax pre­par­ers by request­ing their cre­den­tials and ask­ing if they belong to a state board or bar asso­ci­a­tion requir­ing con­tin­u­ing education.

Is the busi­ness open year round? Tem­po­rary employ­ees and busi­nesses should be checked out.

When choos­ing a tax pre­parer, ask about any addi­tional ser­vice fees. Be care­ful when tak­ing out Refund Antic­i­pa­tion Loans, as fees are required, even if the loan is not approved. Check whether the use of refund antic­i­pa­tion loans for a few days are worth a fee that could equate up to 180 per­cent APR.

The pro­cess­ing time for elec­tronic fil­ing is usu­ally 10 days and the refund is almost always directly deposited into the consumer’s bank account at no cost. Don’t feel pres­sured to pay extra fees to those who claim they can get faster or big­ger refunds.

Shop for quotes and ask the tax pre­parer if they will rep­re­sent you if you are audited or pay any audit-related fees. Only attor­neys, cer­ti­fied pub­lic accoun­tants, and enrolled agents can rep­re­sent tax­pay­ers before the IRS in mat­ters includ­ing audits, col­lec­tions, and appeals. Vol­un­teer tax pre­par­ers must pass a 40-hour course to become IRS certified.

A fraud asso­ci­ated with tax sea­son occurs when thieves pos­ing as IRS agents send emails seek­ing per­sonal infor­ma­tion allegedly to process your refund. The emails

look offi­cial and may include sub­ject lines that read “Refund Notice” or other mis­lead­ing phrases. The IRS does not send emails ask­ing for per­sonal infor­ma­tion to process refunds.

You can visit the agency’s web site and click on “Where’s My Refund” to check on your refund’s status.

Inves­ti­gate char­i­ties that con­tact you seek­ing con­tri­bu­tions they claim can be writ­ten off as tax-deductible but can­not. To check on a char­ity go to www.charity.com or the char­ity navigator.

Be alert for scams based on offers of social secu­rity tax refunds. They do not exist.

A rel­a­tively new scam: An email that appears to come from a gov­ern­ment agency called the “Bureau of Default­ers” states you’ve ignored pre­vi­ous attempts to con­tact you. Now

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has placed your Social Secu­rity num­ber on hold, and you will be pros­e­cuted for fraud.

Your “arrest war­rant” is attached, and you’ve got 24 hours to respond. If you don’t reply, you will be pros­e­cuted, found guilty and fined.

You may be tempted to down­load the “war­rant,” but don’t do it. There is no Bureau of Default­ers, and you aren’t under arrest. These emails are just a way to get you to down­load mal­ware that can hunt for per­sonal finan­cial infor­ma­tion and

Pass­words stored on your com­puter. The Bet­ter Busi­ness Bureau will be post­ing a warn­ing rel­a­tive to this “phish­ing” scheme.

Never allow any­one pur­port­ing to be an agent for the IRS into your home unless they show proper iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and even then be wary. Don’t respond to emails request­ing sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion relat­ing to your refund. Only the IRS web­site is the legit­i­mate source for check­ing refund status.

Con­sumers may file com­plaints about tax-related or other frauds by call­ing the Florida Attor­ney General’s fraud hot­line, (866−966−7226), or by fil­ing a com­plaint online.  You can also con­tact the Florida Divi­sion of Con­sumer Ser­vices at (800−435−7352), where a company’s com­plaint his­tory may be available.

Take care be care­ful and I’ll see you at the next Crime Scene. God bless and pro­tect our mil­i­tary, law enforce­ment offi­cers and fire fighters.

Ken Klein­lein is a for­mer detec­tive with the NYPD Spe­cial Frauds Squad coor­di­nat­ing with fed­eral, state, and local law enforce­ment, and accred­ited secu­rity com­pa­nies, on mat­ters of pub­lic infor­ma­tion and crime prevention.

 

 

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