Ways to prevent yourself from falling victim to tax return scams

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – It’s now March, so the push is on for people to file their income tax returns. Experts say it’s important to file as early as possible to avoid being the victim of a tax return scam.

When it comes to a tax return filed in your name, most times you won’t know about it until the IRS contacts you..

Raleigh resident Madeline Budway was victimized by a tax return scammer.

“We had to keep proving we were the person who was subject of the fraud,” she said.

Budway and her husband usually waited until April 15 to file their tax return and a few years ago, it came back to bite them. 

“Somebody filed under our name and number and got a refund,” she said. 

Tax ID theft is a very common scam, according to the Better Business Bureau.

“It usually stems from being victimized by another scam,” said Alyssa Parker with the BBB. 

Criminals piece together bits of information about you. Once they have key things, like your social security number, it’s a race to see who can file a return in your name first. 

That means you need to beat them to the punch.

“File early,” Parker said. “Make sure you can file before anyone else can file in your name.”

In the meantime, the IRS said you need to guard yourself.

  • Don’t carry your social security card so that it can’t get stolen.
  • Keep your financial information private by destroying old bank records.
  • Shred all credit card solicitations because criminals can find them in the trash and apply for cards in your name to establish an ID.

Having a tax return filed in your name can be an extended hassle. 

“It became a pain for a few years,” Budway said.

She said the IRS keeps an eye on them even today.

 “There’s a flag our account, so they automatically look at it when it comes in,” she said.

The IRS also suggests applying for a six-digit Identity Protection number. Once you’re issued a number, you’ll have to use it each time you file a tax return, but it will keep you safe from scammers. If they try to file in your name, they won’t have your PIN number.

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