Tax season often brings out the worst in people, and that includes the criminal element. When tax filing season comes around, identity thieves and other criminals come out of the woodwork, often filing hundreds or even thousands of returns and sending the money to prepaid cards.
While the IRS has started cracking down on this form of fraud, bogus returns can and do slip through the cracks. Taking the following steps can help you avoid becoming a victim of tax return fraud.
Organize Your Paperwork
The sooner you get your tax paperwork together, the sooner you can get your return to the IRS. Filing early is important, since tax return fraud often involves criminals filing returns before the legitimate taxpayer.
By the time the defrauded taxpayers get around to filing their returns, the tax refund has already been claimed. Reversing the original direct deposit and getting your money can be difficult and time-consuming, so prevention is the best defense.
Never file your taxes before you have all the documents you need, but do file as soon as the last form is received. Be sure to check your math carefully and make sure your return is correct and complete before submitting it.
Keep Tabs on Your Refund
If you file your return electronically, you should have your refund within a couple of weeks. Keeping a close eye on the progress of your return – and your refund – is one of the best ways to fight tax return fraud.
You can sign on to the “Where’s My Refund” site at the IRS to track your return from submission to refund. You will need your Social Security number, filing status and the exact amount of your expected refund. If you receive an error message, contact the IRS right away and report the problem.
Be Careful Answering the Phone
If you receive a phone call claiming to be from the IRS, just hang up. The IRS does not contact taxpayers by phone, but scam artists do. If you can, capture the caller ID information and report the incident to local authorities. You are probably not the only one to have received such a call, and your experience can serve as a warning to others.
Never give out personal information to anyone who calls you. The IRS already knows your Social Security number; they do not need to ask for it.
Watch Out for Phishing Scams
The IRS also does not use email to communicate with taxpayers. If you see an email purporting to be from the IRS, either delete it or report the suspected fraud to the local police department or the FBI.
Never respond to an email that supposedly comes from the IRS. If the tax agency needs to reach you, they will do so via snail mail.