Suzanne Potter / California News Service
SAN FRANCISCO – California has seen a huge surge in reports of threatening or aggressive phone scams in this income-tax filing season, according to experts with AARP’s Fraud Watch Network.
This year, the group is warning of several types of scams. In one version, a person will call and pretend to be from the Internal Revenue Service, and will sometimes begin to bully the consumer, demanding payment.
Amy Nofziger, a fraud expert with the AARP Fraud Watch Network, says the IRS will never call without having contacted the taxpayer first by mail, and will never threaten to involve the police, arrest you or deport you.
“The IRS will never require that you use a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, wire transfer, money order,” says Nofziger. “We’ve even heard of scammers asking for people to go and get gift cards.”
She says identity theft tends to spike this time of year when scammers use a person’s stolen birth date and Social Security number to try and intercept their income-tax refund.
Nofziger advises people to use a locked mailbox and never leave outgoing mail that contains personal information on it in the mailbox – instead, take it directly to the post office. And, beware what you leave in your trash can.
“Always shred your personal and private information,” says Nofziger. “And use a confetti shredder, because there are people that have a lot of time on their hands that will sit there and put those pieces of paper back together.”
If you need help filing your taxes, AARP’s free Tax Aide program helped more than 187,000 people file their income-tax returns last year. Get more information or find a Tax Aide location on the aarp.org website.