The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs is recommending taxpayers file their income tax returns early this year to avoid having their refunds stolen by identity thieves.
“As much as we want to procrastinate on filing our taxes, it can really save you a lot of trouble in the long run if you file early,” spokeswoman Juliana Harris said. “Because if a consumer files their taxes before a scammer has the opportunity to file taxes in their name, then you won’t get a letter from the IRS or notice from them saying someone’s already filed and taken your refund.”
Not only does a victim potentially lose an expected income tax refund, they have to deal with proving their identity to the IRS.
“It can take a long time to solve these issues, so being a little proactive on the front end really can save some time,” Harris said.
Harris said the Department of Consumer Affairs often receives calls from citizens who have been victims of identity theft. She said dealing with it quickly is important.
“What we tell people is, if you’re getting a letter or some sort of correspondence from the IRS, you definitely want to contact them immediately and follow up as soon as possible because time is of the essence when you’re dealing with issues like these,” she said. “The IRS is going to find out about it, too and if they contact you about it you most certainly want to follow up.”
Harris said the problem is so widespread, the IRS has been working on ways to deter identity theft tax fraud. She also warns that people should be aware of the common scam of someone claiming to be from the IRS calling on the phone. She warns to be skeptical of anyone calling purporting to be from the agency demanding payment. She said the IRS will normally send notification through the mail.
The Department of Consumer Affairs has an identity theft unit. You can call at 844-835-5322 or click here for a link.
Here are more suggestions:
- Watch out for scams. Scammers try to solicit personal information via e-mail, text message and phone calls. The fraudster may pose as someone from the IRS to trick you into disclosing personal information. Report IRS imposter scams to the Treasury Department.
- Use a secure Internet connection when filing electronically. Also, choose a tax preparation software because the company is reputable, not because the filing service is free or cheap.
- Mail paper returns directly from the post office.
- Respond to all mail from the IRS as soon as possible.
- Research a tax preparer thoroughly before handing over personal information.
- Shred tax return copies, drafts or calculation sheets when no longer needed.