HUNTSVILLE, Ala — Tax season is around the corner. The first day to file is Friday, February 12. Some scammers are posing as tax preparers looking to steal your money and information. Our team checked in with an agent from the IRS, who tells us what to watch out for if you’re looking for help filing your taxes this year.
Agent James Dorsey tells our reporter, “Last year… we had over 2.3 billion dollars in tax fraud across the country.”
IRS Special Agent in Charge James Dorsey says phony tax preparers will be popping up as we creep into tax season. He explains, “...Unscrupulous tax preparers-- those are really bad people who take advantage of people. The tax code and tax system itself is already complicated. So, people rely on tax professionals to give them the information they need.”
Agent Dorsey says their department had over 1,500 fraud investigations in 2020. Close to 600 people went to prison last year, and we’re told scammers could face even more time during the pandemic. Dorsey says, “The average sentence being 40 months in prison-- almost 4 years. Individuals will see more time for identity theft and more invasive crimes (during) COVID-19.”
He says, you should always look over your write-up before giving it the final approval when working with any tax preparer. Dorsey adds, “If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t sign it. They can’t file it without your signature.”
So how do you know if a tax preparer is legitimate?
Dorsey says, “Every preparer has an identification number that's filed with the IRS. They can provide that to you.”
But, if you want to file on your own. Dorsey explains, “The IRS has a free service where you can file online for free…”
If you do suspect you’re being scammed, act quickly.
Agent Dorsey tells our reporter, “The first thing you do if you do fall victim, is file a police report. The second thing, you’ll find on IRS.gov. It’s a form 14039, which is an identity theft affidavit. Those two items will help us work a little faster with victim assistance to get you back together in some form or fashion." He adds, "It’s going to take some time, if someone steals your information, to correct that. But, this will definitely assist in that effort.”
- Report phishing emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Coronavirus-related scams should be reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or submitted through the NCDF Web Complaint Form.
- Taxpayers can also report fraud or theft of their Economic Impact Payments to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). Reports can be made online at TIPS.TIGTA.GOV.