Criminals and fraudsters often see disasters as an opportunity to take advantage of victims when they are the most vulnerable, as well as the generous taxpayers who want to help with relief efforts.
These disaster scams normally start with unsolicited contact. The scammer contacts their possible victim by telephone, social media, email, or in-person. Also, taxpayers may search for a charity online and be directed to a website or social media page that is not affiliated with the actual charity, according to an IRS news release.
Here are some tips to help taxpayers and business professionals recognize a scam and avoid becoming a victim:
- Some thieves pretend they are from a charity. They do this to get money or private information from well-intentioned taxpayers.
- Bogus websites use names like legitimate charities. They do this scam to trick people to send money or provide personal financial information.
- Scammers even claim to be working for ― or on behalf of ― the IRS. The thieves say they can help victims file casualty loss claims and get tax refunds.
- Disaster victims can call the IRS toll-free disaster assistance line at 866-562-5227. Phone assistors will answer questions about tax relief or disaster-related tax issues.
- Taxpayers who want to make donations can get information to help them on IRS.gov. The Tax Exempt Organization Search helps users find or verify qualified charities. Donations to these charities may be tax-deductible.
- Taxpayers should always contribute by check or credit card to have a record of the tax-deductible donation if they choose to give money. individual taxpayers can deduct up to $300 and married couples can deduct up to $600 in qualifying charitable contributions for the tax year 2021 even if they don’t itemize.
- Donors should not give out personal financial information to anyone who solicits a contribution. This includes things like Social Security numbers or credit card and bank account numbers and passwords.
Don’t be a Victim to a “Ghost” Tax Return Preparer
The IRS warns taxpayers to avoid unethical tax return preparers, known as ghost preparers. A ghost preparer is someone who doesn’t sign the tax returns they prepare. Not signing a return is a red flag that the paid preparer may be looking to make a quick profit by promising a big refund or charging fees based on the size of the refund.
Scams Also Target tax Professionals
Also, increasingly, tax professionals are being targeted by identity thieves. These criminals – many of them sophisticated, organized syndicates – are redoubling their efforts to gather personal data to file fraudulent federal and state income tax returns. The Security Summit has a campaign aimed at tax professionals: Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself.