Three Top Tax Scams

Wednesday, Apr 16, 2008

The IRS recently published its "Dirty Dozen," a list of the top tax scams. Some of them are used to con taxpayers like you, while others are employed to con the IRS itself.

Memorable movie characters like Danny Ocean, Lilly Dillon, and Thomas Crown, glamorize the art of the heist. Real life proves, however, that crime is a lot grittier than these smooth-talking, martini-drinking characters reveal. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the real-world tax scammer actually spends his time writing phony emails, and clinging to childish misinterpretations of tax laws.

Every year, the IRS publishes a list of the most flagrant tax scams. This year's entries include scams that target unsuspecting taxpayers, as well as scams used to get out of paying taxes to Uncle Sam. Here's a snapshot of the top three:

Phishing

The phishing con runs like this: The bad guys send out official-looking emails that pose as IRS communications. From within the email, the taxpayer is directed to an official-looking website, and asked to supply personal information. Most likely, the email will make a soft threat about what happens if the individual fails to comply with the request. Unsuspecting taxpayers-unaware that someone would go to such lengths to impersonate the IRS-read the email and provide the requested information, which often are credit card, bank account, and Social Security numbers. The con artists record the information provided, and use it to steal the taxpayer's identity, open up fraudulent credit accounts, and siphon money out of bank accounts.

To avoid falling victim to such a scheme, never respond to an email that's "from" the IRS. Since they don't contact taxpayers via email, you don't have to worry about any repercussions. Just forward the email to phishing@irs.gov and move on with your day.

Economic stimulus payment scam

Next on the list is a similar scam related to the Bush administration's upcoming tax rebate. Con men posing as IRS officials contact taxpayers by phone or email regarding the tax rebate program. They claim that the taxpayer won't receive a rebate check without verification of personal information.

This scam is also easy to avoid. Don't provide bank account numbers or personal information to anyone who claims to be involved with the tax rebate or economic stimulus program. Again, contacting taxpayers in this manner is not IRS policy; the IRS will use the data from your 2007 tax return to send you your rebate check.

Weightless, invalid arguments

The IRS calls them frivolous arguments-a set of not-so-clever excuses employed to avoid paying taxes. These include things like "paying taxes is voluntary," and "the First Amendment allows me to refuse paying taxes on religious grounds." For more information on these arguments and why they're invalid, visit www.irs.gov.

There's no glamour in trying to rip off taxpayers or the IRS. Scammers are better off putting their energies into their tax returns so that they don't get hit with penalties and interest.

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