March 2, 2012
IRS Issues Alert for Scam Targeting Church Members, Seniors
Watch for these warning signs as scam circulates country.
On Tuesday, we covered the latest "Dirty Dozen" tax scams the Internal Revenue Service flagged for individuals, businesses, nonprofits, and churches to avoid. Today, the IRS issued a new update regarding a specific scam circulating the country that targets senior citizens, working families, and members of churches.
The scheme carries a common theme of promising refunds to people who have little or no income and normally don’t have a tax filing requirement. Under the scheme, promoters claim they can obtain for their victims, often senior citizens, a tax refund or nonexistent stimulus payment based on the American Opportunity Tax Credit, even if the victim was not enrolled in or paying for college.
In recent weeks, the IRS has identified and stopped an upsurge of these bogus refund claims coming in from across the United States. The IRS is actively investigating the sources of the scheme, and its promoters may be subject to criminal prosecution.
And then later:
Typically, con artists falsely claim that refunds are available even if the victim went to school decades ago. In many cases, scammers are targeting seniors, people with very low incomes and members of church congregations with bogus promises of free money.
Pastors and church leaders should watch for this kind of activity in their midst. Even if no signs point to its existence, it's wise for leaders to remind church members, especially senior citizens, that any claims sounding too good to be true usually are. The IRS also offers these tips and warning signs to share:
- Fictitious claims for refunds or rebates based on false statements of entitlement to tax credits.
- 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.
- Homemade flyers and brochures implying credits or refunds are available without proof of eligibility.
- Offers of free money with no documentation required.
- Promises of refunds for “Low Income – No Documents Tax Returns.”
- Claims for the expired Economic Recovery Credit Program or for economic stimulus payments.
- Unsolicited offers to prepare a return and split the refund.
- Unfamiliar return preparation firms soliciting business from cities outside of the normal business or commuting area.