BBB has suggestions for consumers and business owners for keeping tax information secure and avoiding tax-related scams.
In 2016, BBB processed approximately 2,700 complaints against tax return preparation services and related businesses (including accountants preparing tax returns). For those complaints, the median disputed amount for which consumers sought BBB’s help was $350-400.
Tax-related scams are even more prevalent. In 2016, BBB received approximately 6,500 reports to BBB Scam Tracker from consumers regarding con artists claiming to be with the IRS, comprising nearly 20% of all Scam Tracker reports received in 2016. The scams tend to rely on tactics such as intimidation (such as threats of arrest), isolation (to keep victims from talking to their family members about the supposed tax issue), and/or pressure to act quickly. Tax collection scams often employ all three to bully their targets into compliance.
BBB has been cooperating with the IRS by providing the agency with phone numbers reported from consumers to BBB Scam Tracker. Any law enforcement agency can request additional help and information from BBB Scam Tracker.
Here are some ways consumers and business owners can combat tax fraud:
Only deal with trustworthy tax preparation services. Check bbb.org for the latest Business Profile before you engage with a company for the first time.
Protect personally identifiable information (PII) such as birth date, Social Security numbers, bank accounts, etc.
Check out websites carefully and make sure you are accessing the real IRS website (irs.gov) when filing your taxes electronically or inquiring for additional information.
If you get tax information delivered electronically from your employer or other entity, treat that information carefully. Download it onto a password-protected computer.
Understand how tax scams work and be on guard for “red flags” such as calls before you’ve received any kind of letter from the IRS, demands for immediate payment, threats or intimidation, or payment requests via wire transfer, prepaid debit card, or gift card. Check out this BBB Scam Tip for more information: bbb.org/taxscams.
For more information, follow your BBB on Facebook, Twitter, and at bbb.org.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2016, people turned to BBB more than 167 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central Ohio, which was founded in 1921 and serves 21 counties in Central Ohio.