Filing your taxes early can stop scammers from striking first, experts say

Data pix.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The CBS4 Problem Solvers spoke to experts who say that there is a good reason to rush to get your taxes done this year.

The Federal Trade Commission dubbed the week of February 3 as "Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week," during which it will hold webinars and distribute information to help people spot and prevent tax identity theft.

While this type of identity theft can come in several forms, the FTC says it most often happens when someone uses your social security number to file a tax return in your name and receive a refund before you do. Most people only find out about the fraud after they go to file their taxes and get flagged for a duplicate return.

James Lee, COO of the Identity Theft Resource Center, told CBS4 Problem Solvers that an identity thief does not need your work information to file taxes in your name- with only your social security number, they can make up other information and still receive a refund.

Lee said that while tax identity theft did decrease in 2019 by nearly 30%, there has been a spike in scammers calling people and pretending to be the IRS in order to obtain money through wire transfer or gifts cards, or to obtain your social security number and other identifying information.

"The bad guys are ... diligent. They’re very, very innovative, so as soon as we make a move on the good guys side, the bad guys come up with a different scam," Lee said.

A rise in data breaches has also exposed more people's personal information in recent years, meaning the likelihood that someone could obtain your social security number without your knowledge has gone up.

Here are some tips the ITRC and FTC provided to cut down on your chances of being a victim of tax identity theft:

  • File your taxes as early as possible
  • Don't carry your social security card with you or put your social security number on your phone
  • Make sure you know the person doing your taxes
  • If you file yourself online, don't use a public wi-fi connection
  • If you mail in your return, take it to the post office directly instead of putting it in your mailbox

If you do become the victim of tax identity theft, or any other form of identity theft, you should report it at identitytheft.gov. The website will walk you through the steps to reclaim your identity and automatically helps you fill out a form to send to the IRS. You can also find more information from the IRS at the link here and contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for additional help at the link here.

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