New scheme targets tax preparers to get your refund - KTEN.com - Texoma news, weather and sports

New scheme targets tax preparers to get your refund

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DENISON, Texas -- The bad guys are trying a new angle on tax scams: Instead of trying to get into your laptop, they're wiggling their way into computers belonging to tax preparers.

They then access client information and file fraudulent tax returns in the client's name to get their refund.

The scammer then calls the victim claiming to be the Internal Revenue Service, saying the agency put the money in their account by accident and they need to return it. The victim sends the scammer the money.

Then the IRS comes across the fraudulently-filed tax return and takes the return out of the victim's account.

"It's very prevalent these days," said Joseph Madden, a certified public accountant based in Denison. "The IRS is cracking down on tax preparers like myself to make sure we're securing our data."

In an effort to protect taxpayers, the IRS is implementing new policies for tax preparers.

"We've seen numerous regulation changes for the tax preparation industry regarding like passwords and physical security of our computers and whatnot," Madden said.

But not every tax preparer is complying with these new guidelines.

"We always recommend you use a licensed preparer -- either a CPA or an EA [enrolled agent] or even an attorney -- because they are required by the IRS to follow certain regulations regarding the safekeeping of your data," Madden said. "Other people who just do taxes on the side don't follow these rules."

How do you know if you're the target of a tax scam? Madden said the IRS will never call you demanding money.

"If it feels weird to you, it probably is," he said.  "And likewise, the IRS does not want to get paid in Amazon gift cards or Target gift cards."

You also shouldn't give out your social security number over the phone.

"The social security number is like gold these days, and people are fighting harder than ever to get your name, your address, and your social security number, because with that it just opens up a whole world of things they can do to it," Madden said.

One last bit of advice: If you do get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS, hang up and tell them you'll call the agency and work it out yourself. Don't give that caller any information.

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