Tax season has arrived in Acadiana and, unfortunately, so have the scammers. Better Business Bureau Serving Acadiana is warning tax filers to beware con artists using stolen Social Security numbers and other private information such as addresses and dates of birth to file phony tax returns and steal refunds.
If your Social Security number was stolen and a fraudulent return filed, residents expecting a refund instead receive a written IRS notice stating that more than one tax return was filed in their names.
The scammers already received the refund before local residents can even file their real tax return. This is a particularly sneaky con, because victims typically don’t realize they’ve been targeted until they actually file taxes with the IRS.
Scammers steal tax information in several ways, such as phishing scams, corrupt tax preparation services or the information was 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.
BBB offers the following tips to avoid tax filing 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. Another big red flag is if you receive an IRS notice that “additional taxes are owed, the refund will be offset or a 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. Never share your SSN unless there’s a good reason and you’re sure you are sharing it with a legitimate source.
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 www.IRS.gov for more information.