COLUMBUS — The Internal Revenue Service is asking Ohio residents to be on guard against tax scams promoted by individuals trying to persuade them to file false returns. These scams have, in many cases, targeted elderly taxpayers in the Midwest but have since spread to states nationwide, to include Ohio.
The IRS has noted an increase in tax-return-related scams involving unsuspecting seniors and others who normally do not have a filing requirement in the first place. These taxpayers are led to believe they should file a return with the IRS for money to which they are not entitled.
“Scammers are posing as tax return preparers, targeting the elderly and others receiving Social Security benefits. The scammers promise large tax refunds, and lure unsuspecting victims into paying for the preparation and filing of fraudulent tax returns claiming false withholding, credits, refunds or rebates,” said Jennifer Jenkins, IRS spokesperson.
“This summer, scammers hit Erie, Pa. We now have reports the scam has crossed the border into Ohio. Please protect yourself. Not only will you be out the money paid to have the false return prepared by the scammers, but you’ll also have compromised your personal and financial information, opening the door to ID theft.”
Most paid tax return preparers provide honest and professional services, but there are some who engage in fraud and other illegal activities.
Unscrupulous promoters of tax scams often prey upon low income individuals and seniors. They build false hopes of a refund and charge people good money for bad advice. In the end, victims of these scams discover their claims are rejected or the refund barely exceeds what they paid the scam promoter.
Meanwhile, their money and the promoters are long gone. Fliers and advertisements for free money from the IRS have been circulated at community organizations including churches and organizations that assist seniors, exploiting their good intentions and credibility.
The fliers suggest that taxpayers can file a return and get a refund with little or no documentation. These fraudulent schemes are often spread by word of mouth among unsuspecting and well-intentioned people telling their friends and relatives.
“Return preparer fraud is like a contagious disease – it affects not only the preparer, but the individuals who have filed false information with Internal Revenue Service,” said Tracey E. Warren, acting special agent in charge, IRS-Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office.
“Taxpayers should be very careful when choosing a return preparer. It is important to know that even if someone else prepares your return, you are ultimately responsible for all the information on the tax return.”
Anyone victimized or approached by these scam promoters should contact the local IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center. Others with questions about tax credits or refunds should visit www.IRS.gov or call the IRS at 800-829-1040.