PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — With spring being tax-filing season, taxpayers should be aware of potential scams being sent to them by email.
Rhode Island Tax Administrator Neena Savage and Attorney General Peter Neronha issued a warning Monday to be on alert for a scam in which someone claiming to be from the R.I. Department of Revenue’s Division of Taxation appears to be billing recipients for state income tax.
The emails use a Rhode Island Division of Taxation logo and are titled “RESIDENT INCOME TAX NOTICE.” In the message, the scammer claims that a large sum of money is being held on the taxpayer’s behalf at an offshore bank. If the taxpayer agrees to pay 0.5% of it, allegedly to cover taxes, the sum will be transferred to them.
“Those who do send such emails are trying to steal a recipient’s money, identity, or both,” Savage said. “Do not open such emails. If you open one by accident, do not respond. Do not open any links or attachments, and please contact law enforcement authorities.”
Neronha urged the public to be vigilant as new scams continue to rise as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The government will not ask you to pay money up front to receive income tax funds,” he explained. “These are challenging times and many people could use some relief. Unfortunately, there are scammers who will try and take advantage of people in need.”
“If you see it, call us,” he added. “The more information we get from the public, the more we can get the word out to help others.”
The Division of Taxation said it’s specifically aware of a recent case where a person received multiple emails related to the same scam. The email said if the taxpayer handed over $86,860, the taxpayer would allegedly receive about $17.4 million. One email even outlined the steps the taxpayer must take to claim the money.
In a follow-up email, the scammer asked the taxpayer to send the money, in cash, to an address in Jefferson, Louisiana. The taxpayer then decided to contact an intermediary who alerted the Division of Taxation.
“Especially amid the uncertainty and anxiety created by the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), taxpayers who are at home and online may be particularly vulnerable,” Savage said. “But it is precisely at such a time that taxpayers need to be especially vigilant about fraudulent schemes and scams like this one.”
If you spot a scam or think you may have fallen victim to one, you’re urged to contact the R.I. Attorney General Consumer Protection Unit at (401) 274-4400, email email@example.com, or fill out an online complaint form.