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Scams, scams scams. New warnings seem a lot like the old ones. But tis the season when people are working overtime to separate you from your money.

A new study by www.allareacodes.com reveals that during the height of tax season – March and April – phone scams increase by 20 percent compared to January. The results come from analyzing 15 million consumer complaints released by the Federal Trade Commission from 2016-18.

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The study, titled States Most At Risk for Tax Season Scams, is good news for South Carolina as it is 35th on the list of states most-targeted state for phone scams. But the bad news is South Carolinians filed 1,495 FTC complaints per 100,000 people. That’s a lot of attempts to try to scam a lot of people. For perspective, Nevada topped the national list with 2,579 complaints per 100,000 people.

As to what can be done about the problem, the study offers insight:

“At the moment, call screening services and the FTC are the main avenues for consumers. One of the major problems is phone number spoofing: when one phone number shows up on Caller ID even though the call originated from another number. The FCC is making attempts to persuade phone companies to implement reliable call authentication that would prevent phone number spoofing in illegal cases. Remember though that spoofing is sometimes a good thing: consider a dentist's office that wants to display their main phone number when calling to confirm an appointment instead of the desk of a specific employee that made the call.

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“The solutions being proposed are STIR (Secure Telephone Identity Revisited) and SHAKEN (Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs). The systems would allow consumers to know whether a phone number is authorized to make calls on behalf of the number shown on Caller ID. To work, the technology must be implemented by all phone carriers. The FCC has demanded that the phone industry adopt these systems no later than 2019. However, the FCC did not specify what type of action might be taken against phone companies that don't implement the systems, and the costs of implementing the new technologies could be passed on to consumers.”

More immediately, people are reminded that the Internal Revenue Service has stated repeatedly it will never call to demand immediate payment, will not ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone, and will not threaten with the police or lawsuits. If you suspect the call is a scam, the IRS urges consumers to contact the agency directly at 800-829-1040.

Overall, the IRS confirms overall that scams remain a big problem, listing tax-related identity theft again on its annual “Dirty Dozen” list.

Despite a drop in tax-related identity theft in recent years, IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig warns: “Taxpayers should continue to protect their sensitive tax and financial data to help protect against identity thieves. The IRS and the Security Summit partners in the states and the private sector have joined forces to improve our defenses against tax-related identity theft, sharply reducing the number of victims. But we encourage taxpayers to continue to be on the lookout for identity theft schemes, including email phishing attempts and other tax scams.”

Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses a stolen Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number to file a fraudulent tax return claiming a refund.

The IRS, the states and the nation’s private-sector tax industry began working together in 2015 as the Security Summit to fight tax-related identity theft. Security Summit partners enacted a series of safeguards that are making inroads against identity thieves and protecting taxpayers. These safeguards include expanded information sharing among the summit partners as well as strengthened internal IRS controls to guard against fraudulent tax returns.

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Taxpayers should remember that identity thieves constantly strive to find a scheme that works. Once their ruse begins to fail as taxpayers become aware of their ploys, they change tactics. Taxpayers and tax professionals must remain vigilant to the various scams and schemes used for data thefts. Business filers should be aware that cybercriminals also file fraudulent Forms 1120, U.S. Corporate Income Tax Return, using stolen business identities and they, too, should be alert.

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