Tax-related scams are being reported across Ohio as the April 18 income tax filing deadline nears.
So far this month, state Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office has logged more than 150 tax scams compared to 80 in January and 175 in February.
“What we want people to remember is that if callers are threatening you, saying you have to pay immediately, or saying they’re going to put you in jail, it’s not the IRS,” DeWine said.
The IRS imposter phone scam is prevalent. The ploy generally begins with a call claiming the recipient is in trouble with the IRS and must call a certain phone number to avoid arrest or legal action. Eventually, the person is asked to pay to resolve the supposed problem.
Con artists will lie, claiming you owe back taxes, have an unfiled return, have an arrest warrant in your name, are receiving a “final notice” from the IRS, will be prosecuted for tax fraud, or your assets, wages, or bank account will be frozen if you don’t pay.
Scammers often ask people to pay using iTunes or other gift cards, instructing people to read the card numbers over the phone. With this information, con artists can drain the card’s funds. Once the money is gone, it is nearly impossible to recover.
To avoid phone scams:
• Don’t trust threatening callers. If you receive an unexpected phone call from someone who threatens to arrest you for not paying taxes, be very skeptical, especially if you never received any written notice.
• Avoid making payments over the phone. Don’t trust someone who demands that you pay immediately over the phone using a gift card or prepaid card, or who demands that you send a wire transfer.
• Don’t respond to illegal robocalls. Don’t interact with the caller, and don’t dial the number left on your phone. Responding to a scam call can result in even more calls.
• Don’t rely on caller ID. Scam artists can make it appear that their calls are coming from a local number or from a Washington, D.C., area code, even when they are located in another country.
• Check into call-blocking options. Check with your phone carrier and third-party services to determine whether call-blocking services could help you stop unwanted calls.
Report potential scams to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.ohioprotects.org or by calling 800-282-0515.