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Economy

IRS Sounds The 2016 Tax Scam Alert

Rafael Tulino is spokesman for the IRS in the San Diego region.
Guillermo Sevilla
Rafael Tulino is spokesman for the IRS in the San Diego region.

The Internal Revenue Service is expected to send out about $300 billion in refunds after people file returns for their 2016 taxes. But thieves will be working hard to see some of that money come to them, rather than the deserving taxpayer.

In San Diego and elsewhere in the country, IRS representatives are sounding the tax-scam alarm as we approach January 23, 2017, when 2016 tax returns will start to be processed. They're calling this National Tax Security Awareness Week.

Tax scams take many forms. It could be a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS and demanding immediate payment. It could be someone impersonating you by trying to file with the IRS in your name and claim your refund.

"We saw something where calls were coming in about a federal student tax. It doesn't exist. It's fake," said Rafael Tulino, spokesman for the IRS in San Diego. "Those are some of the things we've seen from those calls for the last three years or so. But it's certainly not the IRS making those calls."

Eva Velasquez is president of San Diego's Identity Theft Resource Center and she's working with the IRS on tax security awareness. She said the theft of government refunds or benefits, which include tax scams, is a prime motive for identity theft.

"Government identity theft. This is a big issue. It's the number one identity theft that's been reported to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) for the last two years in a row," said Velasquez. "It affected all 50 states last year."

Sheryl Reichert is president of San Diego's Better Business Bureau. She points out when people file their taxes, getting a refund is the rule, not the exception. That's why there's so much money for scam artists to target.

"You know, in this case we have two victims," she said. "We have the consumer who's a victim of fraud on their account. But then we have the IRS that's a victim by being perpetrated to send money to the wrong end user."

One bit of advice: File early so the government gets your tax return before they get one, in your name, from a bad guy.

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.