Tax Season 2014: Watch Out for Tax-Related Identity Theft

Keep an eye out for tax-time thieves

taxesTax season is here. Unfortunately, many fraudsters use this time of year as an opportunity to take advantage of you. This means you’ll have to be extra careful when choosing a tax preparer. Dishonest tax preparers may attempt to file a false return in your name or have your tax refund payment made out to them.

It is vital to choose your tax preparer carefully because he or she has all of your personal information, such as your Social Security Number.

Here are five ways to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of a tax-time thief:

  1. Make sure your tax preparer has a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Know that anyone who is paid for preparing or assisting in the preparation of federal tax returns must have a valid PTIN.
  2. Never sign a blank tax form. This might seem obvious, but people do it.
  3. Do not hire a tax preparer who claims he or she can get you a bigger tax refund than other tax-preparation firms. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Always be leery of outrageous claims.
  4. Request references. Do your part by asking a new preparer to provide you with a list of references. Remember: you are going to be giving out your personal information. Make sure that information is in the hands of someone who can be trusted.
  5. Get your copy. Always get a printed copy of the return that will be filed in your name, signed by the preparer.

The Better Business Bureau lists these red flags for tax-related ID theft:

  • The IRS sends you a letter saying that more than one tax return has been filed for you.
  • The IRS sends a letter that refers to unfamiliar financial accounts or activities.
  • IRS records show that you received wages from an unknown employer, that you owe back taxes on income you did not earn, or that you owe taxes for a year in which you did not file a tax return.

If you think you might be the victim of tax-related identity theft, the BBB suggests that you first call the IRS Identity Theft Hotline at 1-800-908-4490. If you are not able to get the help you need over the phone, try visiting your local IRS office. Finally, if these steps don’t work out for you, call the IRS Taxpayer Advocate at 1-877-777-4778 or visit them on the web.

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