With tax season here, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is warning New Yorkers to be wary of potential opportunistic fraudsters looking to scam unsuspecting suspects.
Cuomo issued an alert to residents warning of potential scams and promises of inflated tax returns.
Cuomo wants New Yorkers to be aware of “the tactics some unscrupulous tax preparers will use to extract more of their hard-earned money now that personal income tax filing season is underway,” advising that “consumers should be wary of preparers who offer ‘instant refunds’ or ‘no up-front cost’ for tax preparation. To avoid potential scams, the New York State Tax Department has opened free tax assistance sites, assisting eligible taxpayers with free electronic filing options online and at numerous high-need locations throughout the state.”
"I urge all New Yorkers to be extra cautious and wary of the promises made by these dishonest tax preparers," Cuomo stated. "Many of these 'too good to be true' offers are just that, masking increased costs and hidden fees that will do nothing to speed up your return.
"Be cautious if you hire a tax preparer. Before you hire a tax preparer, you should ensure that he or she is registered with the IRS and New York State. You should also review a list of fees, and make sure the preparer will sign your return. Don't hire a tax preparer who asks you to sign a blank return, and be wary of high-interest rates if you are offered a loan in advance of your refund."
In an effort to help prevent residents from becoming the victim of scammers, the governor's office offered a series of tips:
- Don't be fooled by threatening phone calls. Thieves posing as IRS agents use high-pressure tactics to prey on taxpayers. Only give your personal information, including your social security number, to someone you trust. Remember, the NYS Tax Department and the IRS will always send you a letter before contacting you by phone or email.
- Beware of phishing emails. Taxpayers are receiving emails with the IRS logo offering assistance in settling fake tax issues. The NYS Tax Department and IRS will never request personal or financial information by email.
- Avoid identity theft. Your tax return contains an abundance of personal information, including your social security number. To prevent your sensitive information from being compromised, provide it only to a tax preparer you trust and regularly monitor your bank account for suspicious activity.
- Question inflated refund claims. Beware if your tax preparer offers you an inflated refund, especially if he or she hasn't even looked at your information yet. You should also be wary of paying fees based on a percentage of the refund.
- Know your rights
- Despite the free options available, approximately 70 percent of all New York taxpayers still decide to use a paid tax preparer. If you decide to hire a preparer:
- Read the fine print. Make sure you understand how you will receive your refund, including bank account information.
- Ask for a written disclosure. Preparers are required by law to provide a written disclosure statement explaining that you're not required to take a refund anticipation check or refund anticipation loan to receive your refund. They must also disclose the amount of fees you'll have to pay.
- Have your refund electronically deposited into your bank account. A refund should never be deposited into a preparer's bank account. The safest way to receive any refund is to have it directly deposited into your bank account.
- Beware of prepaid cards or gift cards. Some preparers offer to put all or some of your refund on a prepaid card. Ask for a listing of all fees associated with using the card.
- Get a copy of your tax returns. Review the information on your return and ask questions before it's filed. You are legally responsible for what's reported on your return.
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