IRS warns college students of tax return scams - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

IRS warns college students of tax return scams

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ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

The Internal Revenue Service is warning college students to watch out for tax scammers.

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The I-R-S has identified bogus refund claims...

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using the American Opportunity Education Tax Credit... on college campuses throughout the Southeast.

WALB News Ten's Jim Wallace talked with Albany college students today about this warning.

Jim... this is information students need to hear.

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The IRS says these schemes have a common theme promising refunds to young people, who have little or no experience with tax issues. But most of the college students we talked to today said they know scams, and don't think they would fall for them.

19 year old Darton State College sophomore Matt Trammell said he is not surprised by the IRS warning, saying that college students are being targeted by scammers.

3:31:09 Trammell said "We're the Internet generation. I actually see this stuff a lot on the Internet. Nothing is free. Everything has string attached."

20 year old sophomore Nekeysha Anderson says she sees Identity Theft scams everyday. But she says some desperate students could fall prey to scammers.

3:3305 Anderson said "They might. With college being expensive, some of us might, because we don't have the money to get what we need, we might fall for it."

Most of the students we talked with had never filed an income tax form. The IRS says con men are telling students they can get a one thousand dollar tax refund, if they give them 500 dollars up front.:

3:30:47 Trammell said "It's tempting. $500 is a lot to us. It is a lot of money to us. And it could help out in so many ways. So people might let down their guard because of that."

Darton State Police say they know some students could fall for con artists, but agree that today's college students are not naive to cons.

3:37:24 Darton State College Police Chief James Brackin said "I think overall most of them are a lot more cautious now about who they give their information to, and what type of information out."

Chief Brackin urges college students to only use a reputable company to help them prepare their income tax, and to check them with the Better Business Bureau. All of the college students we talked to today said they had no income tax experience, but their experience on the Internet has them well acquainted with scams and Identity Theft cons.

The IRS says they have already detected and stopped thousands of bogus refund claims in recent weeks, targeting college students.

Here is the text of the IRS release. 

 

Media Relations Office                               Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi             Media Contact: 404.338.7886

For Release:  ATL. 2013 -15                                 mark.green@irs.gov                                               Public Contact: 800.829.1040

 

IRS Urges College Students to Avoid Becoming Victims of College Tax Refund Scam

Targets Include College Students, Seniors, and Church Members

 

ATLANTA – The Internal Revenue Service today warned college students and other taxpayers to beware of an emerging federal tax refund scam tempting students to relinquish their personal identification and file tax returns claiming fraudulent refunds. Misleading and bogus refund claims using the American Opportunity Education Tax Credit have been identified on college campuses throughout the Southeast Region.

 

These schemes carry a common theme of promising refunds to people who have little or no income, are normally being claimed as a dependent, and are not required to file a federal income tax return. Promoters falsely claim they can obtain a $1000 college tax refund or nonexistent stimulus payment for their victims based on the American Opportunity Tax Credits, even in some cases, if the victim was not enrolled in or paying for college.

 

Typically, con artists falsely claim that refunds are available even if the victim never went to college, or attended decades ago. In many cases, scammers are targeting college students, seniors, people with very low incomes and members of church congregations with false promises of free money.

 

"Most of these scams involve promoters who prey upon students and people in need, building false hopes. When victims' claims are rejected, their money, personal tax and banking account information, along with the promoters are long gone," said IRS spokesperson Mark S. Green. "We want to alert the public and the education communities to not be mislead, and be on guard to stop this new scheme before more innocent people are victimized," Green added.

 

The IRS has already detected and stopped thousands of these bogus refund claims in recent weeks. The agency is actively investigating the sources of this scheme, and its promoters can be subject to criminal prosecution.

 

These schemes can be quite costly for victims as promoters may charge exorbitant up front fees to file their claim. Some promoters of these scams have charged victims $500 for a bogus $1,000 credit. All taxpayers, including those who use paid tax preparers, are legally responsible for the accuracy of their returns, and must repay any refunds received in error, plus any interest and applicable penalties. Those who intentionally try to defraud the government may face criminal prosecution. 

 

"Individuals should be on-guard for these scams, and safeguard their social security numbers and personal financial information," said Green.  Be very careful of whom you trust for tax advice and who you trust with your personal information. The IRS DOES NOT initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text, and social media- electronic communications to request personal or financial information.

 

Taxpayers should beware of any of the following to avoid becoming ensnared in these schemes:

 

  • Homemade flyers and brochures implying credits or refunds are available without proof of eligibility or income.
  • Unfamiliar for-profit tax services selling refund and credit schemes to the membership of local churches.
  • Internet solicitations that direct individuals to toll-free numbers and then solicit social security numbers.
  • Offers of free money with no documentation required.
  • Unsolicited offers to prepare a return and split the refund.

 

These refund schemes feature many of the warning signs IRS cautions taxpayers to watch for when choosing a tax preparer. For advice on choosing a competent tax professional, see Tips for Choosing a Tax Return Preparer on IRS.gov. To get the facts on tax benefits related to education, go to the Tax Benefits for Education Information Center on IRS.gov.

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