Be wary of tax fraud, phone scams

Published 11:21 am Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Several Decatur County residents have reported being the victims of identity fraud in recent weeks, after finding out someone used their identity to file a federal tax return, according to the Sheriff’s Office and Bainbridge Public Safety.

Through various means, identity thieves get hold of a person’s Social Security number and other personal information to file a tax return and receive a fraudulent tax return. When the victims go to file their taxes over the Internet or through a tax service or accountant who files the return for them, the IRS sends back a message stating that someone has already filed a tax return using their identity.

An IRS notice informing a taxpayer that more than one return was filed in the taxpayer’s name or that the taxpayer received wages from an unknown employer may be the first tip off an individual receives that he or she has been victimized, according to the IRS website at

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Bainbridge Public Safety Investigator Ryan Deen said the first thing a person should do if this happens to them is call BPS, if they live in the city, or the Sheriff’s Office, if they live outside city limits.

“We don’t directly investigate tax return fraud ourselves because the problem is so vast in scope — the offender could be in another state and difficult for local law enforcement to track down,” Deen said. “However, we do take down the victim’s information and forward our report to the IRS, which has a dedicated fraud investigation unit.”

The IRS says it’s important for people to remember that it does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels.

If people receive a paper letter via mail or a phone call from a person claiming to be the IRS and are not sure if the contact is real or fake, the IRS recommends the following:

• Ask for a callback number and an employee badge number. Call the IRS at 800-829-1040, between Monday and Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and ask whether or not the original caller is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact them.

• The same step should be taken for any letter or notice via paper mail that a taxpayer has any doubts about.


Be wary of giving out personal information

A related scam that has also been reported by local citizens involves someone calling and identifying themselves as the “United States Federal Government.” The call comes from a restricted or unknown phone number.

According to the Federal Trade Commission’s website at, a common scam involves callers claiming to be from a government agency who offer to set up free government grants to pay for educational costs, home repairs, business expenses or bills.

The FTC says people who receive calls purporting to be from a government agency should verify the correct names and contact information of government agencies using a telephone directory or another reputable source. Scammers often say they are from an organization that has an official-sounding name but is not a real government agency.

According to the FTC, the scammers ask people to give them their checking account information or ask for an upfront payment before the grant money is disbursed., a website that debunks urban myths, reminds people that most government grants involve a lot of paperwork, have specific requirements attached to them and are never “free money for doing nothing.”

The FTC says: “If you want to reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive, place your telephone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. To register online, visit To register by phone, call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236) from the phone number you wish to register.