LIMA — As tax season begins, so do the efforts of scammers as they use some of the season’s anxiety to take advantage of those who may not be as vigilant as they could be. The average scam victim in Ohio loses $1,800 from these efforts.
“After the first of the year, every year, (scams) swell up until April,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said.
In general, this time of the year sees two major types of scams, DeWine said, and both are concerned with individuals impersonating those with access to sensitive information.
The first involves a scammer calling an individual and pretending they are an IRS representative, who then threatens to repossess houses and empty bank accounts if an individual doesn’t pay them immediately.
Scammers will give a few red flags as to who they really are. The biggest is they’ll ask for something like an iTunes card to transfer the money instead of a legitimate way of sending payment.
“What they want is instant money. They’re not going to get a check, because you can go and cancel a check,” DeWine said.
The other more obvious clue is that scammers are using a phone to call in the first place. The IRS rarely communicates by phone, and instead, the agency relies on mail to send and receive important information. If someone is actually calling from the IRS, taxpayers can request written communication to confirm legality. Scammers, who rely on speed and confusion, aren’t so willing.
“With the IRS, it’s pretty simple; the IRS isn’t going to call you and tell you that they’re going to arrest you. They can’t do that. They’re not going to do that,” DeWine said.
The second major type of fraud during tax season is identity theft. Scammers will find ways to pull social security information from both companies and individuals in order to file under an assumed name and steal people’s rebates.
“They try to get to the IRS before the taxpayer gets to the IRS,” DeWine said. “The IRS pays out the money — a lot of people have refunds coming — and they get it. And then you file. IRS comes back: ‘We’ve already issued this check.’”
Scammers may even go as far as talking directly to human resource managers through an employee’s email to request W-2s, which are then used to file before employees can.
Both types of scams are very difficult to prosecute, DeWine said. Because scammers can be states or even nations away from where the offense is perpetrated, government investigators have limited options. For that reason, it’s better for individuals to be aware of these types of scams before they happen in order to prevent them.
DeWine is currently campaigning in Ohio’s upcoming gubernatorial election. This May, he faces current Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor in the Republican primary.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.