BBB, IRS warn of ghosting tax preparer scam as tax deadline approaches

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ghosting isn’t just happening on the dating scene. This tax season, the IRS warns there are now fake tax preparers leaving customers in the dark and getting away with their money and private information.


Aisha Batista knows this firsthand. She’s a business owner and last year, she got a referral for a tax preparer. She said everything checked out at first and she even met the tax pro in person too. But then things took a turn.

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“She had promised it to my taxes almost close to the deadline, but she never filed them,” said Batista.

And it didn’t stop there!

“She called me, and she said that, if I send her $500, she can expedite the taxes,” said Batista. “So, me and my husband, we sent her the money, we never hear from her again.”

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The Better Business Bureau said that’s the work of a “ghost tax preparer.” Often, these scammers aren’t certified so when it’s time to submit your return to the IRS, a fake tax preparer will ask you to sign it. This makes it look like your return was self-filed. And if something goes wrong, the fake tax preparer is gone.

The BBB also warns this scheme can cause some serious problems in the future. That’s because the scammer now has all your personal information including your bank account number, your address and most importantly, your social security number!

“That could not only hurt you with identity theft, but you could also get in trouble with the IRS if you don’t file your taxes on time,” said Melanie McGovern, Better Business Bureau spokesperson.

As you look for a tax preparer, McGovern said review their credentials. By law, a legitimate tax pro must have valid “Preparer Tax Identification Number” (PTIN).

“Making sure that it is a reputable business that has a great track record that has good reviews, that doesn’t have a lot of complaints. And if there are complaints, did they handle them appropriately? That’s super important,” said McGovern.

RELATED: The IRS has $1 billion in unclaimed 2020 tax refunds; is some of it yours?

And look for red flags like promises of bigger or quick refunds.

“Ask them how? Ask them why? Ask those questions. Reputable tax preparers will answer those questions, fly by night operations may not,” said McGovern.

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