Choose your tax preparer wisely - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Choose your tax preparer wisely

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Juanita Williams from Bo Williams and Associates Tax Services Juanita Williams from Bo Williams and Associates Tax Services
Dougherty County Sheriff's Captain Craig Dodd Dougherty County Sheriff's Captain Craig Dodd
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ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

The IRS has opened more than 500 criminal investigations into questionable tax preparers already this year. Dougherty County Sheriff's Investigators say they're also seeing lots of victims of identity theft. People just finding out they were ripped off by crooked tax scammers last year.

IRS officials say South Georgia was a hotbed for tax fraud last year, and they want to cut down on it this year.  The IRS and the Sheriff's Office say you shouldn't choose your tax preparer based on promises of huge refunds.

Tax return scams were off the chart last year in South Georgia, and officials are urging you to be on guard. As tax season gets underway, the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office says they are having lots of people filling out another kind of form-- because they are victim of a tax return related scam.

Dougherty County Sheriff's Captain Craig Dodd said, "People won't even realize that their Social Security number had been used the previous year to file tax claims."

Juanita Williams from Bo Williams and Associates Tax Services say they are also seeing many new customers asking for help after falling into a tax scam. "It's a lot of trouble. First of all you can not file it electronically, so that delays the process tremendously. It has to be sent as a paper return and naturally that takes much longer," Williams said.

The IRS and Sheriff's Investigators say it's vital to select a tax preparer that is reputable. Fly by night tax preparers cost South Georgians big last year.  "They are having the tax return transferred electronically to their own bank account, and they just disappear. If they do 35, 40, 100 people like that, they make quite a bit of money," Dodd said. "Especially with some of the large tax returns we are getting."

The IRS recommends you use a reputable tax preparer that will be around all year, and ask questions of them.

Find out how much they charge, and don't do business with anyone who says they charge a percentage of your refund Ask for their Tax identification number Do not sign a blank return Check personal history, qualifications Review return before you sign Investigators say unscrupulous promoters will use tax preparation to get all your financial information.

 "They are getting bank account numbers from you. They are getting your Social Security number,"  Dodd said."They are getting all of your personal financial numbers. And anywhere you have ever worked and your medical information."

Most of these tax scams target the low income and elderly, often offering big refunds.

The IRS has issued 770,000 identity Protection numbers this year, to victims of tax related identity theft; nearly triple the number in 2012. The IRS has also hired 35,000 Employees to work with identity theft victims.

The IRS sent out warnings today that they have greatly increased law enforcement targeting fraudulent tax preparers, but they still say the best way to protect yourself is to check out your tax preparer personally.

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