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Don’t Fall for Scams this Tax Season

Believe it or not, tax season is here. The IRS will began accepting and processing returns on Monday, January 29, and this year’s deadline to file and pay owed taxes is Monday, April 15. Millions of dollars are lost to tax scammers every year, and BBB reminds consumers to be on the lookout for emails, text messages, and phone calls from those posing as IRS agents.

“Filing your taxes early not only increases your chances of getting your refund sooner,” Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas said. “It also makes it more difficult fora scammer to file a fraudulent return to steal your refund.”

BBB provides the following tips on safely filing your taxes this year: 

The best way to avoid tax identity theft is to file your taxes as early as possible. File before a scammer has the chance to use your information to file a fake return.

In the U.S., jot down your Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) from the IRS before you file your return. This is a six-digit number, which, in addition to your Social Security number, confirms your identity. It is important to note that you cannot opt-out once you get an IP PIN. So once you apply, you must provide the IP Pin each year when you file your federal tax returns. The IRS will provide your IP PIN online and then send you a new IP PIN each December by postal mail. Visit the IRS for more information about the program. Read BBB’s tips about the IRS PIN

The IRS does not initiate contact with tax payers by email, text message or social media to request personal or financial information. This includes requests for PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts.

Only deal with trustworthy tax preparation services. For many people, major life changes, business ownership, or simply a lack of knowledge about the ever-changing tax laws make finding a trustworthy tax preparer a good idea. That said, not all tax preparers have the same level of experience and training. See our tips for finding the right tax preparer for you

Check out websites carefully and make sure you are accessing the real IRS or CRA website when filing your taxes electronically or inquiring for additional information.

If you receive tax information delivered electronically from your employer or other entity, treat that information carefully. Download it onto a password-protected computer.

For more information, visit our Tax tips and resources page.

Some tax preparers offer refund advances, which are essentially short-term loans in the amount of your expected tax return, less the tax preparation cost. Learn more about these loans

To report a tax scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker. To learn how to protect yourself, go to “10 Steps to Avoid Scams.”

You might be a victim of identity theft if:

  • If a written notice from the IRS arrives in the mail about a duplicate return, respond promptly.
  • If an IRS notice arrives stating you received wages from somewhere you never worked, or receive other notices that don’t actually apply to you, contact the IRS office immediately. 
  • If you receive a notice that “additional taxes are owed, the refund will be offset or a collection action is being taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return” (IRS). 

If you are the victim of tax identity theft in the U.S., contact the IRS at 1-800-908-4490. You should also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP. The FTC also offers a personalized identity theft recovery plan at identitytheft.gov.

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