The one thing that may be more painful than doing taxes is getting swindled in the process.
Last year, the IRS managed to stop $1.2 million in fraudulent returns, claiming $7.2 billion in fake returns.
Still, more than half a million taxpayers did have their identities— and refunds— stolen.
It doesn’t take much for a scammer to take advantage of unsuspecting taxpayers. Having your name, date of birth and social security number is about all it takes. Despite aggressive efforts by the IRS to stop these thieves, hundreds of thousands will again fall victim.
The first person to file as you is assumed to be you. And then when the real you files, the system recognizes a duplicated effort and won’t recognize it.
“You’ll need to contact the IRS right away and fill out an ‘identity theft affidavit.’ Make sure you get a police report, too, to document the crime. The good news is you’ll eventually get your refund– the bad news is it could take up to 180 extra days,” said ABC News Fixer Stephanie Zimmermann.
Every year, the IRS warns taxpayers to be on guard for scams—especially during tax season.
At the top of their list is phone scams— criminals posing as IRS agents threatening you with financial risk, police arrest, even deportation.
Next, phishing: sketchy e-mails or websites designed to steal your personal information.
And then, fake tax preparers–who set up shop just to perpetrate refund fraud and identity theft.
“If you’ve been a victim of a data breach, you might do a great job cleaning up your credit report, but that won’t stop identity thieves from trying to steal your tax refund. The only way to prevent it is to guard your social security number as much as possible and file your tax return early, to beat the scammers to the punch,” Zimmermann said.
A common reminder: never give away your personal information over the phone or the internet.
If you receive a threatening call, hang up. And if you get an e-mail that looks like it’s from your bank, credit card provider or the IRS, call the agency first to make sure it’s legit before providing any information.