I grew up in Waterville and was spoiled rotten by my grandparents. My Army veteran grandfather was among the many 9th infantry members who landed on Utah Beach in Normandy. Later, while penetrating a German position, he was brought down by machine gun fire. The line of bullet holes up his back left a great impression on me. So did the array of war movies that we watched many times over.

“Sergeant York,” “Tora, Tora, Tora,” and “The Green Berets” were among our favorites. But our favorite was “The Dirty Dozen.” In the movie, 12 of the Army’s nastiest convicts take on a suicide mission to eliminate a host of German officers. To help this bunch memorize their mission, Major Reisman makes them recite a rhyme which details their part in the operation.

This very memorable version of “The Dirty Dozen” will forever be etched into my memory. However, a more important version of the Dirty Dozen was published by the IRS just this week. In this new version, there is no Hollywood glamor, and no cheering on the bad guys, just sound advice to protect against fraud.

The IRS reports that while tax-related identity theft is down 40 percent in 2017, it still received 242,000 reports from taxpayers that they were victims. Criminals continue to devise ways to steal more information and impersonate taxpayers. Reciting some of the latest scams will hopefully prevent even more people from becoming victims.

A few notable warnings making this year’s Dirty Dozen list are:

Fake Charities: Callers attempt to steal your information by posing as a legitimate charity. They likely sound convincing and have urgent requests; all they need is your social security or banking information. Online solicitors may look much like well-known charities but might have a slightly different web address. Scammers have a tendency to creep up after times of well publicized crises events.

Recite after me; I will never give out my personal information to anyone who is asking for a contribution.

IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scams: This recently happened to one of my local clients. She was told that she owed the IRS money and that she would be arrested if she did not immediately make a payment. Again, repeat after me; the IRS will not call you asking for money. Even if your caller ID says “IRS,” it is not real. Hang up.

Choose Your Return Preparer Carefully: According to the IRS, about 56 percent of taxpayers hire tax professionals. The IRS suggests that you can avoid a “fraudster” when choosing a tax preparer by inquiring if the preparer will be available as needed after tax season, is registered with the IRS, and has professional credentials (enrolled agents, attorneys and CPAs).

One more time, please repeat, a good preparer will have professional training, will not hesitate to provide a list of references and will not guarantee a refund.

The best way to protect yourself from falling victim to scams and potential fraud is to educate yourself – and never, never give out your personal information to someone you do not know.

 

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