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Tax Time Scams

February 07, 2018

During the next few weeks, please be especially cautious with information related to your federal income taxes and bank information.

It is rather common for people to receive their tax refund via electronic funds transfer requiring you to give the IRS your bank account information. In addition, as you fill out your tax return forms, the IRS requires you to give your name, address, and Social Security account number. In both cases, these are completely legitimate requests.

However, there are plenty of bad guys out there willing to take advantage of your hectic schedule and willing to use emotional triggers to get you to respond. They will use phrases such as “Get your refund faster!” and “Significant penalties will be assessed if you don’t respond immediately!” Unsolicited emails are not the place to give out your personal information. You may receive unsolicited emails asking you for this information either by responding to the email itself (Don’t!) or by going to a website and entering your banking and personal information into a web form (Don’t do this either!).

Do take advantage of all the information available to you. After you read the rest of this article, please go check out the security and anti-fraud pages. I am not promoting a product, just the wonderful information Intuit has that might help you protect your tax information a bit better. For more general advice on protecting yourself from phishing, identity theft and fraud, visit the Federal Trade Commission web site. As always, keep an eye out for anyone asking for your username and password. Don’t respond to random, suspect emails. If you feel that something is off, err to the side of caution.

Second, communicate only with known, trusted organizations. Phone call and phishing scams are common. If you are in doubt about the validity of any communication from the IRS to you, call the IRS. For more guidance, visit the IRS web page. Additionally, ensure you can trust the person or organization that is preparing your tax forms. New regulations require all paid tax return preparers have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). In addition to making sure they have a PTIN, ask if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization and attends continuing education classes. You can always go to well-known companies or organizations as well as official tax preparation volunteers. Check for volunteer organizations near you.

Third, protect your information. Store your files and documents in a secure place. If they are paper copies, store them in a fire safe or locked file cabinet at home. If your W-2 and tax forms are electronic, ensure you save the files in a secure place. If you can, password protect them. You can find instructions online. In addition, file securely. It might seem like a contradiction, but filing electronically is very secure. If you file electronically, you can do it securely by establishing a PIN or personal identification number for each person filing on the form you are using. Your tax preparer will have instructions for you on how to do that.

Keep you and your family safe from fraud. If you have any questions, feel free to call the Information Security Office at 325-942-2333.