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Wisconsin consumer protection warns of phony tax preparation scams


MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - A number of Wisconsinites got burned last Christmas, when phony tax preparers offered them holiday loans in exchange for their business.

This year, state consumer protection officials hope to put out advance warnings about those types of scams. And they’re asking people to report suspicious sales pitches, in the hopes of keeping victims to a minimum.

Consumer official Sandy Chalmers says she knows it’s too early to be thinking about taxes – but it was this time last year when folks got scammed.

Some who offered quick holiday cash charged exorbitant fees – up to $600 for filling out a 1040-EZ return that many people can quickly and easily do themselves. And for some thieves, it’s a gift that keeps on giving – because many scammers fill out the tax returns and take the refunds.

Chalmers says they’ll sometimes use the customer’s personal information to commit other types of identity theft. The IRS says 6 of every 10 taxpayers use paid professionals to complete their returns – and Chalmers says some will pop up in low-income areas and prey on those people.

She said folks can look for a number of red flags – like those who promise refunds which are larger than normal, or charge percentages of refunds as preparation fees.

The consumer agency says it’s working with the state Justice Department to investigate problems.