SAVANNAH, GA (January 31, 2011): Tax preparation season presents opportunities for fraud and some Savannah residents are being caught off-guard by consultants who are not what they claim.

 Sgt. Keith Edwards of the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department Financial Crimes Division said the department already has been contacted by victims discovering their tax returns were stolen in the past year.

 Unwary residents are accepting help from tax preparers who tell them they are not due tax returns. The tax preparers then file claims directing the returns to be sent to their address and are forging victims’ names to collect the refunds.

Later, victims are advised by the Internal Revenue Service or the Georgia Department of Revenue that they received a return or owe money for other reasons.

 Sgt. Edwards suggests residents cautiously engage only licensed, established tax preparers to handle their affairs or seek help from established organizations. The City of Savannah, for example, has sponsored free tax preparation centers through Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) for low and moderate income families who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (ETC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). Those qualified are families earning less than $50,000 annually.

The Internal Revenue Service also provides help at its main office, and various companies offer assistance for their employees.

 The City of Savannah Sites include:

St. Mary’s Community Center, 812 W. 36th St.

Neighborhood Improvement Association, 1816 Abercorn St.

Second Arnold Baptist Church, 1427 E. 37th St.

 Other VITA sites include:

Economic Opportunity Authority (EOA), 618 W. Abercorn St.

Savannah Entrepreneurial Center, 801 E. Gwinnett St.

Employment & Training Ctr. of Union Mission, 711 East Broad Street

United Way of Effingham County, 711 Zitterour Dr., Rincon, GA

Chatham County, 124 Bull St.

Moses Jackson Golden Age Center, 1410 Richard St.

United Way of Bryan County, 1018 Camilla Drive (Pembroke, GA Library)

United Way of Bryan County, 9607 Ford Ave. (Richmond Hill, GA Library)

Savannah Tech/Career Academy Effingham County, 2940 Highway 21 South

Windsor Forest Community Center, 414 Briarcliff Cir.

Also, St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital (employees only), 11700 Middleground Rd.

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