BBB: File early and consider using an IRS PIN to avoid ID theft

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) --- As the United States' tax season approaches, the scammers creep in.

The Wisconsin Better Business Bureau says con artists use the Social Security numbers of unsuspecting Americans to file phony tax returns and steal refunds. BBB says one way to protect this information is to use an Identity Protection PIN issued by the IRS. If you filed a return online, a number may have been issued to you last year. 

Scammers can get a hold of personal information, typically an account holder's Social Security number, address, and birth date. Before you can get around to filing, a scammer can file your return early and receive your refund. BBB says tax ID theft is a particularly sneaky con, because victims typically don't realize they have been targeted until they actually file their taxes.

According to BBB, scammers steal tax information in several ways, such as a phishing scam, a corrupt tax preparation service, or the information was exposed in a hack or data breach. Tax scammers are even known to file in the name of a deceased person or steal children's identities to claim them as dependents.

To avoid tax ID theft scams, here are some tips from BBB:

File early 

File your taxes as early as possible before a scammer has the chance to use your information.

Watch out for red flags

Respond immediately if you receive a written notice from the IRS in the mail, or if an IRS notice arrives stating you receive wages from somewhere you never worked. Another red flag is if you receive a notice that "additional taxes are owned, the refund will be offset or collection actions are being taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return", according to BBB. 

Protect your Social Security number

Do not give out your number unless there is a good reason and you trust the individual you give it to.

Research your tax preparer

BBB says to be 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)

BBB says this is a six-digit number, which, in addition to your Social Security number, confirms your identity. According to BBB, once you apply, you must provide the IP Pin each year when you file your federal tax returns. 

For more information, click here


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