RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Beware of online identity theft during tax season this year. The Better Business Bureau has advice on how to protect your identity from con artists who use Social Security numbers to file phony tax returns and steal refunds.
One way to protect your information, according to BBB, is to use an Identity Protection PIN issued by the IRS that may have been issued to you last year if you filed a return online.
How will you know if you’re a victim of the scam? The first sign of this scam is a written IRS notice arriving in the mail that states that more than one tax return was filed using your SSN.
This happens when scammers get your personal information such as a SSN, address and birth date. Then they file your return early and received your refund before you are able to file your taxes.
According to the BBB, this could have been done by a scammer using phishing scams, a corrupt tax preparation service or information that was exposed in a hack or data breach. The BBB also says tax scammers will sometimes file the name of a dead person or steal children’s identities to claim them as dependents.
The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to avoid tax ID theft scams:
- 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 a written notice from the IRS arrives in the mail about a duplicate return, respond promptly. Or, if an IRS notice arrives stating you received wages from somewhere you never worked, or receive other notices that don’t actually apply to you, contact the IRS office immediately. Another big red flag is if you receive a notice that additional taxes are owed; the refund will be offset or collection actions are being taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return. Contact the IRS if you have any suspicions that your identity has been stolen.
- Protect your Social Security number. Don’t give out your SSN unless there’s a good reason and you’re sure who you’re giving it to.
- Research your tax preparer. Make sure your tax preparer is trustworthy before handing over your 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.
For more information about these tax scams, visit the BBB’s website.