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Scammers on the prowl this tax season

Experts offer some ways to protect yourself from tax-related ID theft
Posted at 7:04 PM, Feb 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-07 07:22:43-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Have you filed your taxes? You might want to -- before someone else files them for you using your Social Security Number.

It's tax identity theft awareness week, and Action 10 News spoke with the Better Business Bureau about how you can identify scammers before they identify you.

"Technology has changed," said CPA and Del Mar College accounting instructor Adelfino Palacios. "Because of the world we are living in, people are getting really creative in what they do in trying to get people's personal information. That's a number you don't want floating around."

But it does happen! Those nine digits can get caught up where you least expect -- if you're not careful, and unfortunately, a lot of these scammers are attacking senior citizens.

"There have been some scams out there where somebody poses as an IRS agent and is trying to get information from the taxpayer," said BBB Regional Director Jason Meza.

Meza said the IRS will not contact taxpayers by phone or email.

"They will not demand money," he said. "They will not ask you to pay through the phone or get gift cards. Instead, they will mail you a certified letter and try to attempt to get you to call them direct."

The deadline to file taxes is April 15. Meza encourages people to file as early as possible to beat scammers to the punch.

Experts say in order to find a reliable tax preparer, to go by reputation, reviews and referrals.

"Tax laws change so frequently, every year, so you want somebody who knows all the tax laws that have changed and are current with the IRS," Meza said.

Other things to watch out for to protect yourself from tax-related identity theft:

  • Be wary of third-party debt collectors;
  • Ask tax preparers for a PTI number or prepared tax identification number which is certification through the IRS.
  • Be wary of what information you store on your computer, so potential hackers cannot access it.
  • and be aware of your tax status. You don't want someone else waiting for your return.

If you are a victim of tax identity theft, the BBB recommends you reach out to IRS.gov.