Attorney General Shapiro warns of tax scams
Authored By: Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General
With the deadline looming to file tax returns, Attorney General Josh Shapiro is urging Pennsylvanians to beware of scam artists looking to steal their money and financial information as they prepare to file their returns.
During tax season, identity theft cases increase as scammers use stolen information to file returns illegally and steal people’s refunds. Pennsylvanians in recent years have also reported being swindled out of money by scam artists who falsely claim to be affiliated with the Internal Revenue Service via phone, text, or email.
These scam artists sound convincing when they call, using fake names and bogus titles to identify themselves as IRS agents. They often alter incoming calls so they appear to be coming from the IRS.
“Pennsylvanians need to know: the IRS will never request your personal or financial information by phone, email or text,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “If you get a call from someone claiming they’re from the IRS and demanding you send money – don’t respond. It’s a scam. Call my office. We’ll investigate and prosecute the scammers.”
Shapiro encouraged Pennsylvanians who believe they’ve been scammed to contact the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection at 800-441-2555 or visit www.attorneygeneral.gov to file a complaint.
Fred Sauers, a Cumberland County resident of Mechanicsburg, called the Bureau of Consumer Protection to report scammers claiming to be from the IRS called his home nearly 10 times. “They claimed I owed the IRS money – thousands of dollars, they told me,” Sauers said. “The IRS doesn’t call and claim you owe them money! Hang up or better yet, don’t even pick up. Call the Attorney General instead.”
Another elderly couple from a central Pennsylvania town was scammed recently into wiring $5,000 to criminals who called, said they were from the IRS and claimed the couple owed money. The couple reported the scam to the Bureau of Consumer Protection, which is investigating. The couple did not wish to be identified.
“It’s important to note: there is no reason to feel embarrassed if you’ve been scammed,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “This could happen to anyone. The scammers are criminals. Call us - we’re here to help you.”
Attorney General Shapiro urged consumers to consult with legitimate tax-return preparation services if they need assistance in preparing and filing their returns. Shapiro also noted the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue provides opportunities for qualifying taxpayers to file their federal and Pennsylvania tax returns for free through designated providers. Click here to learn more.
Shapiro provided other tips to remember as Pennsylvanians prepare their tax returns:
- Keep your tax paperwork in a safe location.
- Shred any documents that are no longer needed.
- If you’re filing online, make sure you update firewall, antivirus and spyware software.
- Do not leave tax documents in an open, outgoing mailbox.
Also, Shapiro alerted Pennsylvanians to be wary of “phishing” emails in which scammers falsely claim an affiliation with bank or credit card companies, tax software providers or the IRS.
Here are tips to help identify phishing schemes:
- The IRS will never call, email or text you. It’s a scam. Do not respond.
- It contains a link. Scammers may claim they need you to update your account or ask you to change a password. Do not click on links you don’t recognize.
- It contains an attachment. Scammers might send you attachments that download malicious software onto your computer. Do not open suspicious attachments.
- It’s an odd email from a friend. Scammers hack email accounts to leverage stolen addresses. You may receive an email from a “friend” that seems odd. Avoid it, and do not click on any links.
- It has a lookalike URL. The questionable email may try to trick you with the URL. For example, instead of www.irs.gov, it may be a false lookalike, such as www.irs.PA.com.
If you receive suspicious communications, forward them to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.