LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Tax season is here, and that means so are the scammers. When people start filing their taxes, con artists can start looking for chances to steal your return.
The Better Business Bureau is getting the word out with tax identity theft awareness week.
According to the BBB, they say the scam consists of criminals getting a hold of someone’s personal information, like their Social Security number, address, and birth date, then filing a return early and pocketing the refund before the victim is aware.
When they file their taxes as normal and expect a refund from the IRS, they would get a written IRS notice saying that more than one tax return was filed using that Social Security number.
Tax ID theft is a particularly sneaky con because victims typically don’t realize they’ve been targeted until after trying to file their taxes for real.
Scammers steal your tax info in several ways. You may have fallen for a phishing scam at an earlier time, used a corrupt tax preparation service, or had your information exposed in a hack or data breach. Sometimes tax scammers file in the name of a deceased person or steal children’s identities to claim them as dependents.
The big question, how do you avoid tax ID theft scams?
According to the BBB:
- File early. The best way to avoid tax identity theft is to file your taxes as early as possible, before a scammer has the chance to use your information.
- Watch out for red flags. If you receive written notice from the IRS about a duplicate return, respond promptly. You may also receive an IRS notice stating that you’ve received wages from somewhere you never worked, or receive other notices that don’t actually apply to you. Another big red flag is if you receive a notice that “you owe additional tax, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return” (IRS). Contact the IRS if you have any suspicions that a return has been filed in your name.
- Protect your Social Security number. Don’t give out your SSN unless you’re sure who you’re giving it to and only for a good reason.
- Research your tax preparer. Make sure they are trustworthy before handing over any personal information.
If you are a victim of ID theft, consider getting an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN). This is a six-digit number, which, in addition to your Social Security number, confirms your identity. Once you apply, you must provide the IP Pin each year when you file your federal tax returns. Visit IRS.gov for more information.
If you are the victim of tax identity theft in the U.S., contact the IRS at 1-800-908-4490. You should also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP. The FTC also offers a personalized identity theft recovery plan at identitytheft.gov.
If you’ve been targeted by this or another scam, help others avoid the same problem by reporting your experience to BBB.org/ScamTracker.