Here we go again. Fraudsters posing as IRS agents have been tricking people in eastern South Dakota into giving up their hard-earned money. This time, scammers are using threats of jail time and loss of a driver’s license if they don’t pay some trumped-up amount in “back taxes.”
According to a story in the Brookings Register, one East River victim lost several thousands of dollars. Another victim took the scammer’s threats of imprisonment so seriously that he turned himself in at the county jail.
We have also heard from some of our friends West River about receiving these phone calls, so be aware. And remember: The Internal Revenue Service will send you a letter if the agency has something to discuss, not an email or phone call. So if someone calls claiming to be an IRS agent, tell them to put it in writing.
Another ongoing problem is one in which scammers will steal your identity, file a tax return in your name and intercept your refund. Victims don’t find out until they file their own returns, which are rejected by the IRS. That has happened in the Black Hills — too close to home.
You can prevent identity theft by guarding your personal information, according to Jennifer Konvalin, CPA, and Partner with Ketel Thorstenson.
● Change your passwords and pins regularly.
● Make your passwords unique, and avoid using kids’ names, pet names or social security numbers. Instead, use a mix of numbers and characters that are at least seven characters long.
● Avoid using the same password for all of your online activity.
● Memorize your passwords; don’t write them down.
● Monitor your bank account and credit cards regularly.
● Never provide personal information on the phone or over the Internet unless you have initiated the contact.
● Don’t use a debit or credit card online unless you have initiated the purchase, and be sure it’s a secure, encrypted system. (Look for the “https” in the internet address.)
If you are still unsure about a contact from the IRS, make an appointment with one of the Ketel Thorstenson accountants and tax professionals in Rapid City, Spearfish, Custer or Williston. We’ve been in the business a long time, and we’re very familiar with IRS policies and procedures.