Consumers can prevent tax fraud with these simple tips

With another tax season coming up quickly, Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) warns taxpayers about tax-related identity theft, which occurs when someone uses your stolen Social Security number (SSN) to file a fraudulent tax return and claim your refund. Though this type of fraud is tough to prevent against – beyond taking steps to safeguard your personal information – BBB offers some tips to help consumers recognize when it’s occurred and steps they can take to mitigate the situation from there.

The IRS offers some additional identity protection tips for taxpayers:

•Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. Make sure the security software is always turned on and will automatically update. Encrypt sensitive files such as tax records you store on your computer. Use strong passwords.

•Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations such as your bank, credit card provider or even the IRS. Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails.

•Guard your personal data. Don’t routinely carry your Social Security card, and make sure your tax records are secure. Treat your personal information like you do your cash; don’t leave it lying around.

Be alert to possible tax-related identity theft if you are contacted by the IRS or your tax professional/provider about the following:

•more than one tax return being filed using your SSN.

•owing additional tax; your refund being offset; or if you’ve had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.

•IRS records indicate you received wages or other income from an employer for whom you did not work.

If your SSN has been compromised or you know – or suspect – that you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, the IRS recommends that you:

•respond immediately to any IRS notice; call the number provided or, if instructed to do so, visit IDVerify.irs.gov.  

•complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, if your e-filed return is rejected because of a duplicate filing under your SSN or if you are instructed to do so. Use a fillable form at IRS.gov, print, then attach the form to your return and mail according to instructions.

•continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.

Visit bbb.org or click here for BBB tips on how to find a qualified tax preparer.

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