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As Tax Scammers Get Aggressive, AARP Warns Last-Minute Filers to be Vigilant

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AARP Offers Tips to Avoid Fraud, Help to File on Time

Last-minute tax filers rushing to send in their 2014 returns as the April 15 deadline approaches should be particularly vigilant against fraudsters, AARP is warning.

The IRS is reporting that thieves are becoming more aggressive as the filing deadline nears, perpetrating phone scams that threaten arrest, deportation, license revocation and other dire consequences. And scammers are preying on vulnerable populations, including older adults.

Today, AARP New York is releasing tips and information to help last-minute filers get their refunds without being robbed. AARP also offers help so New Yorkers can file their taxes in a safe and secure way – and on time.

SCAMS - and how to avoid them include:

  • Tax identity theft. Thieves use a taxpayer’s personal information to claim bogus refunds, file fake tax returns using another person’s Social Security number, list someone else’s children as dependents or claim a refund by a deceased taxpayer.

Shred old paperwork with identifying information, and if filing by mail, hand the return to a mail carrier, bring it to the post office or drop it in a postal box so crooks can’t retrieve documents from personal mailboxes.

  • IRS impersonators. They may claim there’s a problem with a past return or promise to email new tax forms.

Never give out personal information, like a Social Security number, over the phone. Clicking to download “forms” could result in downloading malware.

  • Refund rip-offs: Scammers steal people’s identity by obtaining their names, Social Security Numbers and birthdates, then steer bogus refunds into their own temporary bank accounts by direct deposit, mailed out as treasury checks (often to a vacant home) or preloaded on a debit card, with which the money can be withdrawn from an ATM.

Don’t respond to emails that appear to be from the IRS – which does not send unsolicited, tax-account related emails and never asks for personal and financial information - and never click on links.  Never store important account numbers or data in purses or wallets, or on smartphones. Use a shredder for paper documents, and install a locking mailbox. Before trusting any new tax preparer or website, get referrals from friends and family. Ensure that e-file providers are IRS-authorized at http://www.irs.gov/uac/Authorized-IRS-e-file-Providers-for-Individuals. Monitor accounts and review financial statements regularly. Sign up for a free annual credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com.

To stay ahead of and aware of scams, an interactive map allows users to click on their state for the latest reports on fraud activity from fellow consumers and authorities, such as the New York State Attorney General’s office. People can also sign up at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork to get alerts from AARP’s Fraud Watch Network when a new scam in New York is posted to the site.

Those who think they’re victims of tax ID theft should immediately:

  • File a report with the local police.
  • Contact their bank and credit card companies, inform credit bureaus and consider freezing their accounts (a credit freeze restricts access to credit reports, making it unlikely that thieves can open new accounts in the victim’s name).
  • Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 and complete Form 14039.
  • Get an IP (Identity Protection) PIN from the IRS so they can verify victims’ identity as they work with them on the theft going forward.
  • Fill out an Identity Theft Declaration found on the state’s Department of Tax and Finance website: http://www.tax.ny.gov/help/contact/identity_theft.htm

TAX HELP

For New Yorkers who may need help to send their tax returns in on time, the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program offers free tax assistance and preparation for any taxpayer with low to moderate income. AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, in its 48th year, is the nation’s largest free tax assistance and preparation service, giving special attention to the older population. The service is available to AARP members and non-members alike.

Last year, 1,807 AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers helped more than 125,500 people file their federal and state tax returns. The program is offered at approximately 370 sites in New York including senior centers, libraries and other convenient locations.

For more information on required documentation or to locate an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide site, visit www.aarp.org/findtaxhelp or call 1-888-AARPNOW (1-888-227-7669). AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is offered in conjunction with the IRS.

Media Contacts: Erik Kriss, ekriss@aarp.org, 518-447-6723; Chaunda Ball, cball@aarp.org, 212 407-3732

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