It’s tax season, and identity thieves are eager to claim your tax refund as their own. Filing your return early might help you avoid becoming a victim.
Tax fraud can be a major problem for filers, and the Internal Revenue Service says there are a dozen tax scams you can fall victim to.
Anna Marie Millett, an investigator for the Pinellas County Consumer Protection Agency, said you can prevent some of these scams by filing soon after you get your W-2's.
“If an identity thief has obtained your information and files instead of you — it’s going to delay your refund and it’s going to cause you additional work and heartache,” Millet said.
Millet also recommends to routinely monitor your banking and other financial information. If you are a victim of tax fraud or identity theft, it is important that you report it to authorities as soon as possible.
“We need to get in the mindset of protecting our information. Don’t be so quick to give it our just because someone is requesting it, or we get a phone call asking us to update information. We need to find out why that information is being requested and how it is going to be used,” she said.
Financial theft is the most common form of identity theft.
For three years, the IRS has identified 12 schemes that taxpayers may encounter throughout the year, many of which peak during the tax-filing season.
In addition to filing early, the IRS suggests the following to reduce your risk of identity theft:
- Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. Use strong passwords.
- Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations such as your bank, credit card companies and even the IRS.
- Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails.
- Protect your personal data. Don’t routinely carry your Social Security card, and make sure your tax records are secure.
- If you are a victim of tax fraud or identity theft, it’s important to report that information to authorities as soon as possible.
The IRS expects to receive nearly 155 million individual tax returns this year. The deadline to file is April 17.