Over 1,400 Ohioans have reported attempted tax scams to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office since Jan. 1. One thousand of these came in the month of March alone.
DeWine’s office issued a press release warning citizens to be wary of potential scams.
“Scam artists do this every single day, and we’re seeing even more of it right now,” DeWine said in the press release. “They’ll call you, tell you how much you owe, and tell you to wire money or go buy a prepaid card and give them the numbers. They rely on people being so afraid that they agree to do this right away.”
The increase in reports comes close to the Ohio tax filing deadline on April 18.
“It’s a very serious problem,” said Debbie Smith, an executive administrator at the Ohio Department of Taxation. “We’ve had a fraud unit within the Department of Taxation for about 10 or 12 years. But really, it’s been about the last four that it has just been unbelievable. Every scam you think they could come up with, they have come up with.”
The recent influx of scams is being conducted via a phone call that makes the recipient provide money or personal details in order to get out of trouble with the IRS, according to the press release.
Few who have reported the incident have lost money from the scam, but the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has reported that victims have paid around $29 million from the scam since October 2013, according to the press release.
Reports of tax scams can go through the Department of Taxation or through individual banks in addition to the Attorney General’s office, Smith said.
DeWine’s office gave tips to avoid being the victim of a phone scam. They included avoiding threatening callers, making payments over the phone, responding to illegal robocalls and suggested being skeptical of caller ID.
For non-phone related scams, Ohioans should put notices on their credit reports. They can receive text alerts that tell them when and where their credit card is being used, Smith said.
The Ohio Department of Taxation has taken proactive steps in trying to identify tax fraud in unsuspecting individuals. The department has an enforcement division that works with tax fraud, and workers try to identify tax fraud when going through people’s tax returns.
“Think of someone who has always had the same profile – I’m in my middle fifties – I’m typically not going to just now graduate college,” Smith said. “My profile says I’ve worked for the Department of Taxation for the last fifteen years. If I all of a sudden had a triple increase in my income, we would send a letter out to the address from that return asking for more information, and often that is the first notification that someone gets that their identity has been breached.”
In Ohio, there are penalties for those who fail to file a tax return or evade filing a return, as well as those who intentionally file a false or misleading document. Penalties can be either civil or criminal, and those who commit tax fraud may also be subject to investigation from the IRS.