MADISON, Wis. — Tax season is officially here. Unfortunately, that means there are scammers out there looking to steal your information to make a quick buck.
Most people don’t realize they’re victims of a tax scam until they try to file their taxes and get a notification from the IRS saying there is a duplicate social security number that was already used.
Tax experts say many people become victims through several ways:
- You could have fallen for a phishing scam.
- You may have used a corrupt tax preparation service.
- Your information may have been stolen during a data breach.
Experts give several tips to avoid becoming a victim:
- File your taxes early. By doing so, you lessen the opportunity scammers have to steal your information and claim your refund.
- Protect your social security number. Never give this number out to anyone unless it is for a valid reason and make sure you trust who you’re giving it to.
- Know who is preparing your taxes. Don’t hand over any personal information and make sure you research the company.
- Consider getting an identity protection pin. It’s a six-digit number that confirms your identity in addition to your social security number. It’s an extra step to protect your information.
Tax experts say there are several ways to tell if you’ve become a victim of a tax scam. If the IRS sends you a letter about a suspicious tax return or says you earned money from somewhere you never worked, if you can’t file your taxes and you get a notification that there is a duplicate social security number that was already used, or you get a tax transcript in the mail you didn’t request.
If you fall victim to a tax scam, experts say to do the following:
- You still need to file a tax return. Make sure you also claim a fraudulent refund if someone has used your information already.
- Call the IRS. You can also go to the IRS website and fill out an identity theft form to send to them.
- Request a copy of the fraudulent returns. Keep that for your records.
- Install strong security software on your computer and phone. Use multi-factor authentication when it’s offered.
- Don’t click on any emails that look suspicious. This is likely how hackers got your information to begin with.
- Never download software from pop-up ads. You can also report suspicious scams to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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