Thursday, April 15, 2021

Three tax scams to watch out for

by TERRI DICKERSON/ CDA Press Consumer Gal
| February 25, 2021 1:00 AM

Be careful of scammers trying to steal your identity and money this tax season. Here are three of the top tax scams in 2021:

1) Tax refund fraud: This is when criminals steal people’s Social Security numbers and then file false returns as though they were those people. The scammer will file electronically, claiming low income with high deductions so they get a refund. Then when you file your return, it's rejected because somebody else has already filed with your Social Security number. This can take months to correct.

2) W-2 phishing scam: The IRS has confirmed that crooks have been successful at getting payroll or human resources to turn over copies of W-2 forms with sensitive information for all their employees. If you work in one of these areas, be careful with replying to requests without first verifying with the person sending the request.

3) Ghost tax preparers: If you hire someone to complete your taxes, the IRS warns us that any tax preparer who fails to sign and include their valid Preparer Tax Identification Number is breaking the law. Often, scammers will promise the taxpayer a big refund and then charge fees based on the size of the refund. Red flags include asking for cash payment without providing a receipt, falsifying income to get tax credits and making fake deductions to increase the size of the refund.

As always, be careful when you provide personal and sensitive information to anyone.

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New Social Security Messages

A Coeur d’Alene reader emailed to let us know that scammers are working in overdrive to convince him that fraudulent activity has appeared on his Social Security number. He received three calls in two days, one from a Clarkston number and two from Spokane numbers.

Here’s what the latest message says: “This call is to inform you that we have received legal notice concerning fraudulent activity against your social security number. Kindly press one to speak to our officer on duty. Ignoring of this message will be considered as intentional attempt of nonappearance.”

If you receive this message, just ignore it and delete. Ignoring these types of messages is the best way to avoid engaging with a scammer.

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Visa debt forgiveness during pandemic

A Coeur d’Alene reader received a call with a recorded message that due to the pandemic, Visa is forgiving all credit card charges. The reader knew this was a scam since he didn’t have debt.

However, there may be some legitimate credit card issuers including Capital One, Chase, Citi, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo to name a few that are offering some kind of assistance for consumers during the pandemic. Possible help includes credit line increases, collection forbearance, and skipped payments.

Of course as part of the scam in this instance, the call recipient was asked to provide his personal information so the charges could be forgiven. Ignore unsolicited messages you might receive. Instead, call the company directly if you're having trouble making payments to see what relief your credit card company might offer.

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Facebook scam targeting friends

If you use Facebook, be careful of personal messages being sent via Facebook Messenger. A message shows up from what appears to be one of your Facebook friends that asks how you're doing. Once you respond, the message asks if you’ve heard about the recent new thing going on around town. Naturally, people are curious so once you ask, a reply informs you that there's a lottery with the support of Catholic Relief Services.

Then a follow up message says the lottery is helping old, retired, and disabled workers and the recipient’s name is chosen randomly. The great news is the person sending you the message was randomly chosen and received money, usually around $80,000 to $150,000, and that they saw your name among the winners and wanted to know if you got your winnings, too.

Once you say you haven't heard a thing, the “friend” urges you to contact the claiming agent in charge to claim your winnings and then provide the number to text your inquiry.

Turns out these messages aren’t from a friend. They're from a scammer who has hacked your friend’s Facebook messenger account. Ignore these messages and do not reply to a text message inquiry or confirm any personal information.

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Remember: I’m on your side.

If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. I’m a copywriter working with businesses on marketing strategy, a columnist, a veterans advocate and a consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.