Action Line: Beware fraudulent tax refund schemes
BY PHIL MULKINS World Action Line Editor
Thursday, March 22, 2012
3/22/12 at 4:54 AM
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Dear Action Line: A new member of our church is selling forms and instructions for claiming college tuition tax credits to compensate people for paying grocery taxes. This seems absurd to me, but some people are convinced. - M.H., Tulsa.
On March 7, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt issued a warning on "fraudulent tax refund schemes involving criminals attempting to rip off senior citizens and families" - involving the federal American Opportunity Tax Credit.
"The criminals promise a substantial refund or nonexistent stimulus payment from the credit even if the individual is not attending or paying for college. Consumers also may be asked to pay a steep fee upfront in exchange for the filing," Pruitt's warning states.
"We urge Oklahomans to be cautious of any claims promising big refunds or credits," said Tom Bates, chief of Pruitt's Public Protection Unit.
A March 2 Internal Revenue Service warning states, "Typically, con artists falsely claim that refunds are available even if the victim went to school decades ago. Scammers are targeting seniors, very low-income people and church members with bogus promises of free money.
"The IRS has already detected and stopped thousands of these fraudulent claims. The scheme can still be quite costly for victims. Promoters charge exorbitant upfront fees to file these claims and are often long gone when victims discover they've been scammed."
The IRS said the fraud includes criminals falsely claiming that college credit is available to compensate individuals who pay taxes on groceries. Read about real qualification for the credit at tulsaworld.com/irsaoc
See the IRS warning "Tax scam warning: beware of phony refund scheme abusing popular college tax credit; senior citizens, working families and church members are targets" at tulsaworld.com/collegetaxcreditscam
The IRS advises people to beware of fictitious claims for refunds or rebates based on false statements of entitlement to tax credits. Avoid unfamiliar, for-profit tax services selling refund and credit schemes to local church members and internet solicitations directing people to toll-free numbers soliciting Social Security numbers.
Beware of homemade flyers and brochures implying that credits or refunds are available without proof of eligibility. Avoid offers of free money with no documentation required and promises of refunds for "low income, no documents, tax returns."
Pruitt's warning says that when you believe you've been victimized by a tax refund scam or need additional information, contact the Public Protection Unit at tulsaworld.com/OKAG or call (405) 521-2029.
Submit Action Line questions by calling 918-699-8888, emailing phil.mulkins@TulsaWorld.com or by mailing them to Tulsa World Action Line, PO Box 1770, Tulsa OK 74102-1770.