It’s National Tax Security Awareness Week! Better Business Bureau has some suggestions for consumers and business owners for keeping their tax information secure and avoiding tax-related scams.
In 2017, BBB processed approximately 2,400 complaints against tax return preparation services and related businesses (including accountants preparing tax returns). For those complaints, the median disputed amount for which consumers sought BBB’s help was $500, up from $400 in 2016.
Tax-related scams are even more prevalent. In 2017, BBB received approximately 3,500 reports to BBB Scam Tracker from consumers regarding con artists claiming to be with the IRS. This comprised nearly 7% of all Scam Tracker reports received in 2017. The scams tend to rely on tactics such as intimidation (like threats of arrest), isolation (to keep victims from talking to their family members about the supposed tax issue), and/or pressure to act quickly. Tax collection scams often employ all three to bully their targets into compliance.
BBB has been cooperating with the IRS by providing the agency with phone numbers reported from consumers to BBB Scam Tracker. Any law enforcement agency can request additional information from Scam Tracker and we are always willing to work with them to help stop this fraud.
Here are some ways consumers and business owners can combat tax fraud:
- Only deal with trustworthy tax preparation services. Check BBB.org for the latest Business Profile before you engage a company for the first time.
- Protect personally identifiable information (PII) such as birth date, Social Security numbers, bank accounts, etc.
- Check out websites carefully and make sure you are accessing the real IRS website (irs.gov) when filing your taxes electronically or inquiring for additional information.
- If you get tax information delivered electronically from your employer or other entity, treat that information carefully. Download it onto a password-protected computer.
- Understand how tax scams work and be on guard for “red flags” such as calls before you’ve received any kind of letter from the IRS, demands for immediate payment, threats or intimidation, or payment requests via wire transfer, prepaid debit card, or gift card.
Check out this BBB Scam Tip for more information: BBB.org/taxscams