Better Business Bureau warns: Beware of tax identity theft this season

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The Better Business Bureau Northwest & Pacific is warning the public about the dangers of tax identity theft this tax season.

The warning is in alliance with Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, which runs from Jan. 29 – Feb. 2, 2018 where people are asked to be vigilant with their personal information and so they don’t fall victim of tax identity theft.

According to the Bureau, the way the tax scam works is when someone gets access to a person’s Social Security number and they can use it to get a tax refund or job. People who have been scammed will receive a letter from the IRS stating more than one tax return was filed in their name, or IRS records show they have wages from an employer they do not know.

The public should be wary of unsolicited phone calls, emails or letters purported to be from the IRS or any official-sounding government agency. In some of the most common tax related scams, scammers pose as IRS agents and pressure victims by demanding money or threatening jail time. Fraudsters may spoof phone numbers, so the call appears to be coming from the IRS or local law enforcement.

There are also deceptive advertisements claiming to reduce a person’s tax liability. Scammers will use official looking IRS notices or websites to sway people into paying unnecessary money or divulging private and personal information.

Scammers will also use stolen personal information, social security numbers and falsified W-2 information to file fraudulent tax returns in the victim’s name. In some cases, thieves will steal W-2 forms out of unsecured mailboxes.

In order to better protect themselves, the Better Business Bureau recommends people have taxes prepared for them and to be sure to use qualified preparers and make sure they include their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Also, be wary of preparers who guarantee high value tax returns.

People should use caution if a tax preparer tells them that they need to obtain other services from their tax service in order to complete their taxes. Other services may be notary services, immigration services or sending registered letters.

Also, E-file only from secure computers. Make sure anti-virus software is up-to-date and never use public Wi-Fi to file tax returns and don’t file taxes from a link in an email.

Consumers can report a scam to the Federal Trade Commission or the Attorney General. To find a trusted tax preparer visit go.bbb.org. A recording of a real tax scam call can be found at http://bit.ly/2DSj9QD.

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