Beware of tax-season scam artists

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Jan. 19 marked the start of tax season, a time only looked forward to by big spending politicians, bureaucrats and fraudsters.

With Tax Day less than three months away, folks across the country are scrambling to get their financial houses in order as they prepare to file with the IRS. Complicating an already stressful process is the increased threat of tax fraud, as a growing number of scammers and sophisticated hackers are hard at work trying to steal from unsuspecting tax filers.

There have been 736,000 reports of fraudulent incidents of scammers calling taxpayers falsely claiming to be from the IRS. The phone scams started by targeting seniors and immigrants but have now expanded to targeting everyone in all 50 states. These phone scams have cost victims more than $23 million since 2013.

Now scammers are posing as tax-filing services as well. Just this week, it was reported that scammers are sending emails, falsely appearing to be from TurboTax, that aim to steal personal information. If you receive such an email, delete it and don’t reply or forward it.

Although some of the most common scam tactics use direct contact like phone and email, there are growing concerns over the use of technology and a lack of online security for taxpayers. Tax fraud from online tax programs is becoming a bigger and bigger problem. There are literally millions of online accounts that criminals can use to prey on legitimate taxpayers, stealing their identity and pocketing their hard-earned money. Everyone is at risk, especially seniors.

In 2013 alone, swindlers succeeded in stealing $5.8 billion in fraudulent refunds on 1 million returns.

When filing online, beware of services that do not have security measures to protect your identity. Whistle-blowers from Intuit/TurboTax have spoken out about the lack of security measures for online filers.

In 2015, two former TurboTax employees came forward acknowledging that they had “found literally millions of accounts that were 100 percent used only for fraud,” and that TurboTax management “forbade” them from flagging or turning off the fraudulent accounts and refused to implement suggested security measures to stop the rampant fraud.

Although tax scams don’t discriminate, unfortunately America’s seniors are among the most vulnerable for falling victim to fraud — having their identity stolen or personal security compromised during tax filing season. On behalf of 60 Plus, I encourage seniors and their loved ones to be on the lookout for unscrupulous individuals and companies who would put them and their personal information at risk.

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