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Identity Theft: Be Careful When Filing Tax Returns

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https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/
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If you think you’re ready for tax season, but have not heard about tax identity theft, then maybe you’re not ready. The Better Business Bureau reminds everyone that this is Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, tax-related was the most common form of identity theft reported in 2014, with more than 109,000 complaints.

“Identity theft is not going away,” said Danielle Rudd, with the BBB office in Pensacola. “We see more and more individuals whose Social Security numbers have been compromised. And this is the prime time for identity thieves to take advantage of hiving the Social Security numbers and have your tax return delivered straight to their bank account.”

There were also 55,000 complaints about IRS imposter scams last year. 2014 marks the fifth consecutive year in which tax-related identity theft topped the list of identity theft complaints, with tax identity theft accounting for nearly a third of all identity theft complaints to the FTC.

When it comes to tax identity theft, the best defense is to file income taxes as early as possible – getting a step or two on any scammers. First up, says Rudd, is dealing with returns filed either electronically or by snail-mail.

“By doing it electronically, that way is a little bit faster,” Rudd said. “If you’re going to be mailing any documents that have your Social Security number or account numbers, make sure you drop it off directly at the post office so it won’t fall into the hands of someone who might be driving through a neighborhood picking their mailboxes.”

When you’ve completed your return and you’re done with drafts, calculation sheets and other notes you no longer need – invest in a good paper shredder.

In the past year, the BBB has had numerous reports of scammers calling consumers, saying they represent the IRS, and that the consumers owe money they must pay immediately. Rudd says Internal Revenue procedure is to contact you by snail-mail.

Other tips: access free BBB reviews of tax preparers, and get a list of accredited preparers at www.bbb.org. And check your credit report at least once a year.

If you discover you’re a victim of tax identity theft, contact the Federal Trade Commission online or by phone at 1-877-FTC-HELP. You can reach the IRS at 1-800-908-4490 or at www.irs.gov.