University area could see scam spike this tax season

IRS-imitating phone scams can be a threat to college students.

Elizabeth Smith

The Minnesota Department of Revenue announced last week that it wouldn’t accept tax returns submitted through TurboTax because of cases of potential tax fraud.

According to a Feb. 5 release from the department, some taxpayers found that when they went onto TurboTax to submit their tax return, they saw that it had already been filed.

The ban on tax returns submitted through TurboTax was lifted around 3 p.m. Saturday, according to a statement on the department’s website.

Due to limited resources, students may be vulnerable to tax and other types of fraud because they usually don’t have help from professionals.

Jay Haapala, associate state director of community outreach for AARP, said by filing another individual’s tax return, a person has the opportunity to claim that refund as his or her own.

“If you do your taxes online, you’ll realize you don’t need very much personal information to file a return, just social security number, name and address,” Haapala said.

The Internal Revenue Service, along with local neighborhood associations, like Southeast Como Improvement Association, are also currently warning people to look out for phone scams this tax season.

Variations of phone scams increase during tax season, said Nick Juarez, Minneapolis crime prevention specialist.

In some cases, callers pose as the IRS or the U.S. Census Bureau to obtain social security and bank account numbers. The caller I.D. sometimes shows the government agency that scammers say they are affiliated with.

“The callers are very persuasive and almost downright nasty sometimes,” said Karen Connelly, Minnesota’s regional spokeswoman for the IRS.

In almost every fraud case, Haapala said, one phone call to verify a story’s validity could save people from falling for scams.