New York, NY - March 20, 2017 - With this year’s tax day just a month away, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman provided taxpayers with a variety of tips to help them avoid fraudulent tax schemes. The Attorney General also urged New Yorkers to stay vigilant and report to his office any suspected scams intended to steal personal and financial information from consumers.
“Too often, fraudsters use tax season as an excuse to exploit consumers,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “My office will won’t hesitate to act if New Yorkers are being ripped off. This is why we ask consumers to remember a few helpful tips and notify my office of any fraudulent tax schemes.”
Each year, the Office of the Attorney General receives complaints from consumers about various tax-related schemes. The Attorney General’s Office continues to receive numerous complaints about scammers who are impersonating IRS officials and attempting to collect bogus tax debts. These often include fraudsters posing as government officials via phone calls or emails. Scammers threaten consumers with lawsuits or arrests if they do not turn over money or provide sensitive personal information. Consumers should not engage this type of caller or provide any personal information. A sample IRS scam call can be found here.
In many cases, the scammers claim consumers owe past tax debts and insist that consumers pay using a pre-paid credit card or gift card. Many scammers insist that would-be scam victims pay using these products, because they are generally difficult to trace. Consumers should not pay – the IRS and legitimate government agencies will never demand immediate payment or payment information over the phone.
New Yorkers can report potential scams to the Attorney General’s office by submitting a complaint here or by calling the Attorney General’s consumer hotline at 1-800-771-7755. Scams should also be reported to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.
Taxpayers should be wary of tax preparation businesses that advertise low fees to get the customer in the door but then increase the final fee by hundreds of dollars claiming the tax return was more complicated than anticipated; and of a tax preparer who electronically withdraws more than the agreed upon fee without notice to the consumer.
In order to help New Yorkers avoid tax scams the Attorney General’s Office offers the following additional tips:
- If you owe money, you will receive a legitimate notice in writing that identifies the agency and the reason you owe money;
- Do not give out personal information, including your Social Security number, bank account information, or other payment information, to telephone callers;
- Legitimate government organizations will never threaten arrest or deportation for failure to pay a debt;
- Legitimate government agencies will never insist that consumers pay a debt only via a pre-paid credit card.
The following suggestions will help consumers file their tax returns safely and keep more of their return:
- If you use a tax-preparation service, use only established and recognizable companies;
- Check the tax preparer's qualifications and history through the Better Business Bureau (org);
- Ask for a written estimate of all fees; avoid those who base their fees on a percentage of your refund;
- Avoid tax preparers that promise cash for preparing the return, but in fact merely offer a discount on inflated fees;
- Make sure the tax preparer is accessible, even after the April due date;
- Never sign a blank return;
- Review entire return before signing;
- Make sure the preparer signs the tax form and includes a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN);
- Consult New York's “Consumer Bill of Rights Regarding Tax Preparers.”
Consumers can avoid the costs of refund anticipation loans and checks by filing their return electronically and having refunds either mailed or directly deposited into their own bank account.
The Attorney General is also reminding New Yorkers that there are Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites where consumers can get their tax returns prepared free of charge. For more information about how to qualify and identify a VITA location site go here.
Attorney General Schneiderman reminds New Yorkers that in addition to being vigilant consumers, they should also report instances of fraud to his office. Consumers are encouraged to file complaints to the Attorney General’s office by completing and submitting a Consumer Bureau Online Complaint Form or calling 1-800-771-7755.