ANNAPOLIS, Md. (July 13, 2011) – Reinforcing his commitment to protecting Maryland taxpayers and consumers, Comptroller Peter Franchot today alerted Marylanders to a new series of fraudulent tax schemes which are working their way across the country. Numerous states in the Midwest and the South are reporting accounts of people falling victim to fly-by-night companies offering to help them get “free money” from the “special stimulus program” or other fictitious refund accounts.
“Though the tax filing deadline has come and gone, this is a reminder that unscrupulous people who prey on people’s fear and economic hardships never take a vacation,” said Comptroller Franchot. “It is my hope that by alerting Marylanders to these schemes we can avoid the damage that has been done in other states where we have seen people lose thousands of dollars, face penalties for filing faulty returns and suffer even more dire losses as the victims of identification theft. As always, we will work with our community partners and use every tool at our disposal to protect Marylanders from fraudulent tax schemes and prosecute those who concoct these schemes to fullest of our ability.”
The recent scams are targeting poor and elderly taxpayers and those who receive public assistance or draw from Social Security and wouldn't ordinarily file returns. They are being approached someone from Human Services Associates LLC offering to help them receive “free money” and asking for personal information. Individuals who have given this company their information have been asked to let the company file their tax returns in order to receive their check. The Comptroller reminds people that they should never let someone prepare your tax returns if you are not present to see the final document. Human Services Associates (HSA) is currently being investigated by the Ohio Attorney General.
“We want to thank Comptroller Franchot for helping to get the word out,” said Robin McKinney, director of the Maryland CASH Campaign. “Any Maryland residents that have worked with Human Services Associates LLC should immediately contact the Comptroller’s Office or the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit. As with any scam, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
If a Marylander has already been contact by HSA or a similar such company and has given them their information, they should immediate go through the following steps:
· Immediately file IRS Form 14039 “Identity Theft Affidavit”. There's a box to check that says: “I am a potential victim of ID theft and believe I may be at risk for future impact to my tax account.” The form is available at www.irs.gov.
· Send a certified letter to them stating “I revoke any permission that I may have unintentionally given for Human Services Associates LLC (HSALLC) to file my taxes for 2010, 2011, 2012, or any other tax year, or for HSALLC to deposit refunds into their accounts or take any fees.”
The address is: Human Services Associates, LLC, 711 Merrill Street, Lansing, MI 48912.
· Make sure that you file your 2011 and 2012 tax forms for yourself even if you don’t have income that requires you to file a tax return. It will be very important that you do this and that you follow up with the Comptroller’s Office and the IRS after the 2011 and 2012 tax seasons to determine if another return was filed in your name.
Comptroller Franchot also reminded Marylanders of some simple but important tax safety tips if they are approached by companies who offer to file returns:
· Ask questions like, “Where is this money coming from?” If the money is supposed to come from Maryland or the IRS, check with the Comptroller’s Office and the IRS to see if it is a real program and to see if you really qualify.
· Never give out your personal information to any person or company until you verify how the information will be used and you are sure that the company is legitimate.
· Find out if you can apply for the money yourself for free. If a company is offering to apply for the money on your behalf, find out exactly what fees they will charge you.
· Don’t just find out how much money they will give you. Find out how much money they will keep for their fee.
For free tax help, tips and for answers to any tax question, please go to the Comptroller's Website at www.marylandtaxes.com or call 1-800-MD-TAXES (1-800-638-2937).
Contact: Joe Shapiro, 410-260-7305 (office), 443-871-2244 (cell)