HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — AARP says ghost tax preparers set up shop around tax time in pop-up offices and often promise big refunds.

Get daily news, weather, breaking news and alerts straight to your inbox! Sign up for the abc27 newsletters here.

The IRS calls them ghost preparers because they don’t have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), which is required by law. Sometimes these ghosts will invent false income or tax credits to increase refunds but they don’t sign the return leaving you responsible for fixing the mistakes and possibly paying the penalties.

Warning signs:

  • The tax preparer asks for payment in cash
  • They don’t give receipts
  • Fees are based on a percentage of the refund
  • They mark your return as “self-prepared”

The don’ts:

  • Don’t do business with someone who promises a big refund without fully reviewing your financial situation.
  • Don’t sign a blank or incomplete tax form.
  • Don’t open attachments or click on links in emails from tax preparers you don’t know.
  • Don’t use a tax preparation website unless it lists a PTIN.

Things you should do:

  • Confirm that your tax preparer has a PTIN with the IRS
  • Make sure the preparer signs your return — if filing digitally — make sure they include their PTIN.
  • Make sure you can reach the preparer outside of tax season.
  • If you get your refund by direct deposit make sure it is going to your bank account

If you suspect fraudulent activity or misconduct by a tax preparer contact the IRS.