This tax season your Better Business Bureau is partnering with the Idaho Attorney General’s office to warn the public about the dangers of tax identity theft. This joint warning is in cooperation with Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, which takes place from Jan. 29 to Feb. 2. As W2’s begin flooding in through the mail and tax preparer advertisements pop up online, this is a great time to remind family and friends of the best practices for keeping their identity safe from harm.
In the last two years, there have been more than 460 tax collection scams reported to BBB Scam Tracker. Some of the most common tax scams include imposter scams, tax relief scams and ID theft.
Tax identity theft occurs when someone gets access to your Social Security number and uses it to get a tax refund or job. Victims become aware of the con when they receive a letter from the IRS stating more than one tax return was filed in their name. Another scenario is when IRS records show the person has wages from an employer they do not know.
The Idaho Attorney General’s office urges taxpayers to be on the lookout for these types of scams and is sending out a reminder that tax thieves are becoming more sophisticated and persistent each year.
There are precautions you can take to protect your identity. First, if you are having your taxes prepared for you, be sure to use qualified preparers and make sure they include their Prepared Tax Identification Number, or PTIN. You can search for trustworthy tax preparers at bbb.org.
Beware of preparers who guarantee high value tax returns. It’s a huge red flag if they are making promises before even starting your paperwork. And be cautious of preparers who tell you that you need to obtain other services from them in order for them to complete your taxes. Other services may be notary services, immigration services or sending registered letters.
If you are handling your own taxes this year, you aren’t free from schemes. Online tax scams are just as prevalent. Be sure to use a secure computer when filing your taxes online. Make sure anti-virus software is up-to-date and never use public Wi-Fi to file tax returns.
Consumers can report a scam to the Federal Trade Commission or the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. Learn more about tax scams at bbb.org/taxscam.
Veronica Craker, firstname.lastname@example.org, is the content and communications director for Better Business Bureau Northwest +Pacific. To check a business or report a scam, go to bbb.org or call 208-342-4649.