Consumer Alert from District Attorney Michael Dougherty

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For Immediate Release  
March 22, 2018

20th Judicial District
Boulder District Attorney

Community Protection Division
Email  or call: 303-441-3700

Boulder District Attorney Warns of New Tax Scams, 

Surge in IRS Imposter Calls

   (Boulder County, Colo.) -- This tax season, the Community Protection Division of the District Attorney's office warns Boulder County residents that tax scammers are trying new strategies for stealing personal information and money, and that IRS imposter calls are on the rise.  These IRS schemes include:

  • Identity thieves file fake tax returns and have refunds deposited into victims' bank accounts.  The thieves then contact the victim claiming to be from the IRS or a collection agency, and demand that the victim return the money.  The victim unknowingly sends the money to the thieves, and then is left on the hook for the money and unable to file a legitimate return.
  • In another version of this scam, after the erroneous refund is received, the victim receives an automated call purporting to be from the IRS, threatening fraud charges, arrest, and "blacklisting" of the victim's social security number.  The victim is given a fake case number and telephone number to "return" the refund.
  • Criminals are also creating imposter tax preparation websites and phone numbers, and using these to steal personal information.  Instead of reaching legitimate tax preparation sites to help prepare and e-file returns, consumers are misdirected to look-alike sites created by scammers.  These sites look real, but they are set up to collect personal information that can then be used to commit fraud and identity theft.
  • The CPD is receiving increased numbers of complaints from county residents who are on the receiving end of IRS imposter calls.  These calls are supposedly originating from area codes within Colorado (303, 719, 720, 970) and from several around the country (including 202, 315, 415, 530, 714, 719).  Each time, the caller threatens imminent legal action and jail time if the recipient of the call does not immediately pay money to settle a bogus tax bill, often through the purchase of prepaid debit cards or Best Buy, iTunes or other gift cards.

The District Attorney's office offers the following advice to help prevent and report these scams:

File early and securely:  The IRS advises consumers to file tax returns early if possible.  Mail your return directly from the post office, or use a secure internet connection if filing electronically.  To determine if a website is secure, look for "https" at the start of the web address -- the "s" stands for "secure."  Some websites use encryption only on the sign-in page, but if any part of your session isn't encrypted, your entire account could be vulnerable.  Look for "https" on every page you visit, not just when you sign in.

Check out your tax preparation service:  Ask tax preparers about their data security policies and how they protect your information.  If you are using an online tax preparation service, look for the tax preparer's identification number; the IRS requires all paid tax preparers to have one before filing any returns.  The IRS also has an online tool to help consumers research tax preparers and determine the type of credentials or qualifications held by tax professionals.  

Follow up on an unexpected refund:  If you or someone you know gets an unexpected tax refund, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 or follow their guidance online to verify whether the refund is legitimate, and to take steps to return it if it's not.

Hang up on scammers:  If a caller claims to be from the IRS, HANG UP.  Do not answer the phone if you don't know the number calling.  

Remember, the IRS will never:

1) call you to verify tax filing or taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill;

2) demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question the debt;

3) require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card or gift card; 

4) ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone; or

5) threaten to bring in police to have you arrested.

Report scams:  The U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) collects data on IRS scams and seeks resolution.  You can file a complaint online or by mail to TIGTA, PO Box 589, Benjamin Franklin Station, Washington, DC  20044-0589.

For further information, contact the CPD at (303) 441-3700