Beware of scams while tax day nears

Good news: The deadline for filing tax returns is two days later than usual this year.

Bad news: This year’s filing won’t reflect the new tax law passed in December (that impacts this year’s tax returns, which must be filed next year).

April 15 falls on a Sunday this year, followed by Emancipation Day April 16. Because Washington, D.C., celebrates that holiday, tax day is delayed to April 17.

That also gives scam artists two more days to attempt to defraud taxpayers. Statistics from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office show such scams are increasing as tax day nears.

The office’s help center logged 160 reports of tax scams in January, 280 in February and 340 in March.

“Among the tax scams reported to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, the IRS impostor phone scam is the most common,” according to the office. “In this scam, people generally get a call saying the federal government is taking action against them for tax problems and they must call back immediately (and eventually pay) to resolve the problem.”

The office offers these tips to avoid such scams:

• Don’t trust threatening callers. If you receive an unexpected phone call from someone who threatens to arrest you for not paying taxes, be skeptical, especially if you never received any written notice.

• Avoid making payments over the phone. Don’t trust someone who demands that you pay immediately over the phone using a gift card or by sending a wire transfer. These are preferred payment methods for scam artists, because once sent, it’s very difficult to trace or recover the money. The real IRS won’t demand that you pay over the phone using one of these methods.

• Don’t respond to illegal robocalls in any way. Don’t interact with the caller, and don’t call a number left on your phone or in a message. Responding to a scam call can result in even more calls because it lets con artists know your phone number belongs to a real person.

• Don’t always trust caller ID. Scammers may “spoof” a phone number, making the number on your caller ID appear to be from the IRS, even when it’s not. For example, a call may appear to be coming from a 202 (Washington D.C.) area code, when it’s actually coming from another country.

Of course, members of Congress have been known to scam taxpayers, too. The attorney general didn’t offer advice about the supplemental retirement income program, Social Security, that devolved into a tax fraud.