Be on the lookout for tax-related identity scams
California Attorney General Rob Bonta has issued a consumer alert with tips on filing and preparing taxes safely and preventing tax-related identity theft. As tax day approaches, many Californians may seek assistance in filing their federal and state tax returns. To avoid falling victim to a tax scam, Attorney General Bonta advises Californians to file early, beware of common scams, and take steps to protect their identity.
“As working families face an increase in the cost of living, many are anxiously awaiting their tax refunds to put money back in their pockets,” Attorney General Bonta said. “With Tax Day fast approaching, we want to make sure that these hard-working Californians don’t fall victim to tax-related fraud or scams. I encourage Californians to check out our website for tools, tips and resources to make filing taxes easier and safer at oag.ca.gov/consumers And if you think you’ve been the victim of a tax scam, report it at oag.ca .gov/report.
Beware of tax-related identity scams:
Tax scams are common during tax season. As Tax Day approaches, beware of scammers claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB). Scammers often use harassment and pressure tactics, threatening consumers with arrest, deportation or loss of driver’s license if they do not receive payment, often by bank transfer or prepaid debit card. Some scammers may even know information such as your social security number or fake caller ID to make it look like the call is from the IRS, FTB, police, or Department of Vehicles. motorized.
Scammers can send phishing emails that appear to be from the IRS and FTB to trick you into thinking you owe money or need a refund. These emails often include links to official-looking websites and ask for your money or personal information so they can steal your identity.
Identity thieves use stolen personal information to file false tax returns under someone else’s name in order to steal tax return refunds. Scammers typically file at the start of tax season, and consumers may not learn of the theft until they try to file their taxes.
How to protect yourself from tax evasion:
· File early – You are less vulnerable to scammers if you file early and have your refund in hand. Avoid putting yourself at risk of being the next victim and file your taxes as soon as possible.
· Hang up the phone! — The IRS and FTB will only call someone who owes taxes if they tried to contact you by mail. Legitimate IRS and FTB agents will not threaten imprisonment or demand payment over the phone or by wire transfer. Consumers should not make any payments and should contact the agency directly by searching online for government contact details. Calls impersonating the IRS should be reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). Those impersonating the FTB should be reported.
· DO NOT OPEN the email — Never open an email or text that says it is from the IRS or FTB. The IRS and FTB do not use email, text, or social media to request personal or financial information or to send notices regarding audits or refunds. Replying to email, opening attachments or clicking on links may allow crooks to collect your personal information or infect your computer with viruses or other malware.
· Use a strong password — When preparing your tax return for e-filing, be sure to use a unique strong password for your online filing accounts. A strong password is made up of eight or more characters, including letters, numbers, and symbols. Use a unique password for each of your tax filing accounts.
· Think Beyond the Password — For added security, obtain an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) for your IRS e-filing account. A new PIN is provided each year by the IRS.
Use two-step authentication – Check the availability of two-step authentication to protect your tax filing accounts (and other online accounts that contain sensitive information, such as your email and social media accounts ). Two-step authentication adds a second factor, such as a one-time code sent to you by email, phone, or text. You enter this code, along with your username and password, to access your account.
Tax preparation resources:
You can get free help. Many consumers turn to third-party tax preparation services for help completing their tax returns. Attorney General Bonta encourages consumers to find out if they qualify for free tax assistance.
· IRS Free File – The IRS Free File program is available to those whose adjusted gross income was $73,000 or less. If you belong to this category, you can find one or more free online file options for you through this program. To see if you qualify for this program, visit: https://apps.irs.gov/app/freeFile/
· FTB CalFile – FTB’s CalFile program allows qualified individuals to quickly file their tax returns electronically directly to the FTB, free of charge. To see if you qualify, visit: https://apps.irs.gov/app/freeFile/
· VITA/TCE — The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program provides free tax assistance to people who earn $54,000 or less per year, people with disabilities, and people who don’t understand English well. The Tax Advice for Older Persons program offers free tax assistance to all taxpayers, especially those over 60, specializing in matters relating to pensions and retirement-related issues.
· Need more time to prepare? You can also use IRS Free File to electronically request an automatic tax return extension, regardless of your income. You will then have until October 15 to file a return. More information on how to request an extension can be found on the IRS website.
· Find a reputable tax preparer. Make sure your tax preparer is reputable and qualified to provide tax services. In California, only an attorney, certified public accountant (CPA), IRS-registered agent, or registered tax preparer can prepare tax returns for a fee. To confirm if a tax preparer is registered with the IRS, visit: https://irs.treasury.gov/rpo/rpo.jsf
If you believe you have been the victim of a tax scam or other wrongdoing, you can file a complaint with the state attorney general’s office at oag.ca.gov/report or with the IRS.
To learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones from fraud, visit the website at oag.ca.gov/consumers.