Tax Time = Scam Time – National Consumers League

April 15 is a date that is on many of our minds this time of year, and the clock is ticking.

It’s no news that scammers work year-round. But now, more than ever, NCL’s Fraud Center is finding that con artists are going after consumers through tax refund and rebate scams. So, this year, not only do consumers need to rush to get their taxes filed on time, but they need to watch out for scams as well.

NCL’s Fraud Center has been tracking the scam since April 2005, and we’ve found that most of the set-ups consumers report are variations of phishing scams. It’s happening via both phone and email, and there are several pitches, ranging from claims of “tax relief” services to help speeding up refunds.

There are a bunch of different variations of the scam, but one victim’s story stands out in particular:

Stephen was worried about the money he owed the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and he was contacted by a company that assured him they would settle his debt. He sent his personal information and tax returns from previous years to the “tax attorneys.” He used his credit card to pay the $9,500 the company told him he owed. One week later the company said that they could not help Stephen. When he asked for his money back, they wished him “luck” and hung up on him!

Stephen is not alone, but there is some good news: many of the complaints we’re getting are from consumers who were savvy enough to recognize the pitch as a scam, and many aren’t falling for it!

Now that millions of consumers are expecting to receive their Economic Stimulus check in the coming months, our fraud counselors are concerned that more consumers will be duped by scammers, so we’re reminding consumers that the IRS does NOT use email to initiate contact with taxpayers about issues related to their accounts.