Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Sheriff warns of PCH scams

Crittenden County Sheriff Wayne Agent said his office continues to be pummeled with reports of scams.

Recently, he has dealt with several cases related to taxpayer identity theft. Now, another popular scam involves Publishers Clearing House.

The sheriff said people are reporting receiving checks from PCH and after cashing them, they are asked to send more money to claim a larger prize. He warns, do not cash these checks.

According to the PCH Sweepstakes Learning Center online, winning is always free and you never have to pay anything to claim a prize award.

"If you are ever contacted by someone claiming to represent PCH, or claiming to be one of our employees, and asked to send or wire money (for any reason whatsoever, including taxes); or send a pre-paid gift card or Green Dot Moneypak card in order to claim a sweepstakes prize, don't!  It’s a scam. If you are sent a check, told it’s a partial prize award, and asked to cash it and send a portion back to claim the full prize award, don't! The check is fake, but the scam is real!" offers the website.

As for the taxpayer identity theft, the cases involve local taxpayers who have found their tax return to have been fraudulently filed by someone who has stolen their Social Security number. Agent said about the only thing his office can do is create a report that can be used by the IRS to start an investigation.

A notice from the Internal Revenue Service saying your return won’t be accepted might be your first clue that your identity has been stolen. Identity theft could lead to long delays in getting your refund or to bigger tax bills for unreported income.

“The IRS recognizes the first return submitted under a Social Security number, and usually the identity theft is identified when the second return is filed” under that same number, Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting, US, recently told The Associated Press.

More than 236,000 tax returns processed last year were deemed fraudulent because of identity theft, and nearly $1.2 billion in refunds from those fraudulent returns were blocked, according to the Treasury inspector general for tax administration.