Crime Watch

Crime Watch: Tips to avoid tax-time fraud

 

Special to The Miami Herald

This is the week everyone gets crazy because of the April 15 deadline for filing federal income tax returns.

Many are running around looking for ways not only to meet the deadline but also to save money. Also running around are criminals looking to scam you by offering to help and making promises of great returns. Therefore, I went to the Internal Revenue Service website and found the following information.

To avoid becoming victims, the IRS says taxpayers should beware of:

• Fictitious claims for refunds or rebates based on false statements of entitlement to tax credits.

• Unfamiliar for-profit tax services selling refund and credit schemes to church congregations.

• Internet solicitations that direct individuals to toll-free numbers and then solicit Social Security numbers.

• Homemade fliers and brochures that imply credits or refunds are available without proof of eligibility.

• Offers of free money with no documentation required.

• Promises of refunds for “Low Income-No Documents Tax Returns.”

• Claims for the expired Economic Recovery Credit Program or for economic stimulus payments.

• Unsolicited offers to prepare a return and split the refund.

• Unfamiliar, out-of-area tax return-preparation firms.

In speaking to several certified public accountants, I learned that people don’t have to go crazy before April 15 because they can request a deadline extension (although they still have to pay what they estimate their taxes to be). You can go to the IRS website, irs.gov, for more information about this. So take a deep breath and use common sense.

Because identity theft typically increases during tax-filing season, the IRS continues to alert consumers to be on the lookout for suspicious emails that include the IRS name or logo. If you receive an email claiming to come from the agency, someone might be trying to gain your personal and financial information, making you a target for identity theft.

The IRS says it does not engage with individuals via email.

In addition to email scams, each year also brings an increase in the number of identity theft reports traced to stolen mail, online tax-filing security holes and easy access to financial records that people sometimes leave on their desktops. Although identity theft cannot be eliminated, you can reduce your chance of becoming a victim by taking a few precautionary steps, so visit the IRS website for more information: irs.gov.

If you receive a notice in the mail from the IRS alerting you of possible identity theft, respond immediately. If you believe you may be an identity theft victim due to a lost or stolen purse or wallet, questionable credit card activity or credit report, call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490.

Regarding last week’s column on Switchboard of Miami, the group asked me to offer you the phone number of its original helpline — 305-358-4357.

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to carmen@citizenscrimewatch.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.

Read more Miami-Dade stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category