In the wake of Hurricane Florence on the East Coast, and wildfires ravaging the West Coast, the IRS has warned individuals to be wary of disaster tax relief scams that are popping up across the country. As these illegitimate schemes continue to gain traction, taxpayers are becoming increasingly vulnerable to losing money that’s going to what they think is a good cause.
Here’s what you need to know:
Many of us want to find ways to support the relief efforts helping our fellow citizens. Often, that means making a charitable contribution to a charity or fund opened up on behalf of the victims. While there are many reputable organizations out there doing just that, it’s important to do your research before signing a check towards the cause. Every day, fraudulent websites are being opened up which attempt to impersonate credible non-profits, often with similar sounding names and branding. Keep an eye out for suspicious activity, such as unsolicited phone calls, emails, and social media messages asking for your personal information. Any time you choose to donate, don’t forget to vet the source thoroughly and cross-reference it with sites like the IRS’ Tax Exempt Organization Search.
If you have been personally affected by one of the recent natural disasters, you may be vulnerable to other schemes which may exacerbate the adverse impact on you and your family even more. There have been reports of scammers claiming to be IRS agents promising tax relief for victims. Hiding behind the cloak of casualty-loss claims and refunds, these individuals are targeting those hit the hardest in order to take advantage of their situation. It is important for taxpayers to know that the IRS will never ask for financial data like a credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the phone. If you are contacted by someone claiming to be an agent or working as an IRS partner, report the incident to TIGTA by calling 1-800-366-4484.
As disaster relief efforts push on, it’s paramount that you take the right steps to protect your financial interests, even if you have the best intentions in mind. Never give cash or financial information until you have done the adequate research. For more information on tax issues related to disaster relief, be sure to visit the dedicated page on the IRS website.
If you’d like to learn more about how to structure your charitable donations to achieve the best results on your return, speaking with us is a great place to start. For more information on other accounting topics, check out our blog.