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IRS warns about phone scams during tax season

The approach of the filing deadline for individual income tax returns also initiates the season for telephone scams predicated on the population's general anxiety about their income tax liability and the Internal Revenue Service. As a result, people in northern Missouri and Kansas may begin receiving telephone calls from individuals purporting to represent the IRS.

In the early days of telephone scams, scammers attempted to persuade victims to send money to a specified bank account that was unrelated to the IRS. Modern scams are more sophisticated. A common telephone scam occurs when a statement is made indicating that the victim's Social Security number has been suspended because of suspicious activity or concern that it may have been involved in a crime. The victim is then asked to confirm their Social Security number in order to reactivate it. The Social Security number is then used to charge purchases to a credit card or to withdraw money from a bank account.

Another common scam is known as "ghost filers." Here, a scammer will rent low cost space and set up a phone bank. The phone bank operators, who are not certified accountants, promise super-fast refunds if the victim gives up certain information. This scam results in the filing of inaccurate returns that may claim improper refunds. Since October 2013, the IRS reports that scams have cost victims more than $72 million. Of these victims 160 were from Missouri, and they lost nearly $500,000 to phone scams.

Both the Social Security Administration and the IRS want consumers to understand that they almost never use telephone calls to contact account holders about payment issues. Anyone who receives one of these calls should contact either the IRS or the local police department and report the call.

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