Houghton Lake Michigan State Police, IRS Warn of Tax Fraud

Tax Day is quickly approaching…

…and tax scam phone calls claiming to be from the IRS are on the rise.

Tax fraud comes in many different forms.

Whether it’s tricking you into giving out personal information or into paying for a loan that doesn’t actually exist, scammers always find new ways to do it.

9&10’s Cody Boyer and photojournalist Harrison Light spoke to investigators, the IRS and tax experts.

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Many people are very familiar with what to do during tax-time…

…But criminals also know what they’re doing, and start to come out in bigger numbers.

"Unfortunately, when we get to April and tax-time, we do see an increase in people calling the post, asking for some guidance on how to deal with scam involving possible tax fraud," says Lt. Josh Lator, post-commander of the Houghton Lake MSP post.

State Police say the tactics may change, but criminals have the same goal as they ever did.

"They are using modern technology. it use to be a visit, then it was mail, then it was an email. now it may be through an app or a text or an automated phone call," Lt. Lator says. “It’s very rare for someone to contact you over the phone and ask for personal information about an account. If you are not the one who initiated contact with a bank, a financial institution, the IRS, you really don’t know who you are talking to.”

Scammers aim to fake you out or threaten you to get your personal information.

They can use it to get your refund before you even file…and more, if they demand cash.

"The number one thing to think about with IRS is if the IRS has a question, a legitimate question with your taxes, they are not going to have a random person call you," Lt. Lator says. "They are also not going to make threats. A legitimate issue your IRS will be handled in an appropriate professional way and they will provide proper documentation.”

“Part of their technique is to threaten you with either arrest or deportation, foreclosure. That’s a big red flag," says Luis Garcia, an IRS spokesman. "They demand immediate payment and the IRS will never do that. The IRS is never going to threaten you."

Garcia says fraud agents have technology on their side.

"Technology plays a big part because, for example, with a phone scam, these criminals have put together a variety of different data bases where they have complete profile of you," Garcia says. "They know your social security number, they know where you work, your children’s names.”

“You as an individual need to just stop and realize how many marketing sales calls do you get in the course of a year," says Diane Skop, owner of Skop’s Tax Services in Houghton Lake. "Don’t part with your money.”

Diane Skop has helped people with their taxes for 25 years and has been an enrolled tax preparer in Houghton Lake for 13 years.

“You know in your own mind if you have a tax balance that’s due," Skop says. "You know if you have set up an appropriate installment agreement, so I recommend you see a reputable tax preparer.”

She says tax fraud and identity theft can be avoided.

"We shouldn’t be fearful of them but we do," Skop says. "You need to be honest and have all of your documents in order to file an accurate tax return. That’s what we are here to help you do."

According to the IRS:

The IRS will not:

*             Call you to demand immediate payment. The IRS will not call you if you owe taxes without first sending you a bill in the mail.

*             Demand that you pay taxes and not allow you to question or appeal the amount you owe.

*             Require that you pay your taxes a certain way. For instance, require that you pay with a prepaid debit card.

*             Ask for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

*             Threaten to bring in police or other agencies to arrest you for not paying.

If you don’t owe taxes, or have no reason to think that you do:

*             Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.

*             Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their "IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting" web page. You can also call 800-366-4484.

*             Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the "FTC Complaint Assistant" on FTC.gov. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" in the notes.

If you know you owe, or think you may owe tax:

*             Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you.