The state Department of Revenue encourages taxpayers to protect themselves from tax scams that can drain their bank accounts, damage their credit ratings and even get them into trouble with the law.

“Tax scams are a growing problem,” Secretary of Revenue Kimberly Lewis Robinson said. “Be especially careful during filing season, when scammers are more active.”

The most prevalent scams this year include:

Preparer Fraud

Although most tax preparers provide excellent service, unscrupulous preparers will often promise inflated refunds, then on behalf of clients file returns that understate taxable income, exaggerate business or personal losses, or claim improper tax credits and deductions.

Taxpayers are responsible financially and legally for all information submitted on their tax returns, whether they prepare the returns themselves or pay someone to do it.

Tips to protect yourself: never sign a blank return; review and ask questions before signing a return; avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the amount of the refund or who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers without first reviewing your returns; and use a preparer who will be around to answer questions after the return has been filed.

Phone Scams

Criminals impersonating LDR or IRS agents will call individuals or businesses demanding immediate payment of an alleged tax debt.

Louisiana Department of Revenue agents will never make initial contact by phone to demand payment of a tax debt. Contact with delinquent taxpayers is always initiated through the mail with a letter that explains in detail what is owed and provides contact information for the department.

Phishing

Phishing often involves unsolicited emails with links to websites that pose as legitimate sites, but exist only to capture personal financial information such as Social Security, bank account and credit card numbers.

Be careful about clicking links or opening attachments in unsolicited emails. If you want to verify that an email is legitimate, don’t call phone numbers provided in the email; look the numbers up yourself.

Identity Theft

Identity Theft often involves use of a stolen Social Security number or taxpayer identification number to file phony tax returns and claim fraudulent refunds. In addition to tax fraud, identity thieves can drain your bank account, open credit accounts in your name or even use your health insurance to get medical treatment.

To help protect yourself against identity theft, always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. Use strong passwords. Protect personal information for yourself and your dependents. Don’t risk exposing your Social Security card by carrying it with you. Ensure your physical and electronic tax records are secure. Use two-factor authentication on your accounts as an added measure of security.

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