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tax return

Outwitting the Tax Season Scammer

tax seasonWhen the old year fades and the new one begins, thoughts of tax season come to mind. Most adults view paying taxes as a duty, an obligation, and things of that nature. For scammers however, tax time is simply loaded with opportunity.

During tax season identity theft skyrockets. What can you do to protect yourself? To offset this upward tick, make it your business to FILE EARLY. When you delay filing your tax return, you increase your exposure to fraud and identity theft. How and why can this happen? The answer is simple. During the window of time before the IRS receives your return, it is easy for the bad guy to falsely file under your name and Social Security number because the Internal Revenue Service does not verify the validity of individual tax forms. A red flag is not raised until two returns are filed using the same Social Security number and by that time the damage is already done and hassles ensue!

If the bad guy has enough information, they can file a fraudulent tax return as early as January 20th. Let’s just be honest. For many of us that is days, weeks, or even months before we get around to filing. Said another way, the scammer can already have cash in hand before you even file your legitimate tax return.

Are there other ways to offset vulnerability? The answer is yes. Taxpayers increase their risks of being defrauded when they file from a mobile device while using shared wireless networks. DO NOT FILE YOUR TAX RETURN USING A SHARED NETWORK.

Of course nothing is full proof, but a person with criminal intention and determination might just move on to their next person if you heed these two steps. That next person will be the easier mark. Take care to not be an easy mark.

Protecting personal information and Social Security numbers year-round is the most important step in safeguarding an individual’s identity. To add, filing a tax return as early as possible using a secure network is the next best thing a taxpayer can do to prevent tax-related identity theft.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends the following steps to help prevent tax-related identity theft:

  • If you plan to file electronically use a secure internet connection or mail your tax return directly from the post office.
  • Shred copies of your tax return, drafts or related calculation sheets.
  • Respond to all mail from the IRS as soon as possible.
  • Don’t give out your Social Security number unless necessary.
  • Research a tax preparer thoroughly before you entrust them with your personal information.
  • Check your credit report annually at www.annualcreditreport.com to make sure no other accounts have been opened in your name. There is no cost for this service.

Call 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) to talk with a consumer assistance representative if you need more information.

Source: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. csnewsletter@freshfromflorida.com