Avoiding Tax Identity Theft

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Tax season is upon us, and you have until April 15 to file your return. Scammers are also busy during tax season, hoping to steal money you earned. How will you know your tax return has been taken from you? When you go to file, you’ll get a written notice from the IRS that more than one tax return was filed using your Social Security number.

The real question is, how are scammers taking your tax return? They would have acquired your personal information at some point – information like your birth date, your Social Security number, your home address or more. Using this information, they filed a return early and got your refund before you even filed.

Now you may be wondering how they got your information. This could’ve happened in several ways. Maybe you fell for a phishing scam a while back, used an illegitimate tax preparation service unknowingly or had your information exposed during a data breach. Scammers can even file in the name of someone deceased or steal a child’s identity and claim them as a dependent.

No matter how it was done, Tax Identity Theft is serious, and you deserve the money that was rightfully yours. Therefore, use these tips from your Better Business Bureau to avoid tax ID theft scams this tax season:

  • File early. The sooner you file, the less opportunity a scammer has to use your information and file before you. This is the best way to avoid tax identity theft.
  • Protect your Social Security number. Only give out your SSN if there’s a good reason, if you know for sure who you’re giving it to and you know how it is going to be used and protected.
  • Do your research. If using a tax preparer, research them ahead of time. Ask friends and family for recommendations or find business profiles of trustworthy tax preparers at bbb.org.
  • Watch for red flags. Respond right away if you receive a written notice from the IRS about a duplicate return. You should also watch for notices that don’t apply to you, such as receiving wages from an employer you never worked for.
  • Consider an Identity Protection PIN. If you have become the victim of tax identity theft, consider getting an IP PIN. An IP PIN is a six-digit number that confirms your identity in addition to your SSN. Once you apply, you must provide it each year when you file your federal tax returns. You can learn more about IP PINs at IRS.gov.

Visit us at bbb.org for more information on tax identity theft and staying safe this tax season!