Scams and identity thefts are particularly prevalent risks during tax time. This National Consumer Protection Week, Better Business Bureau warns that frauds utilize stolen personal data to manipulate large tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service.
According to the Federal Trade Commission’s 2012 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, identity theft complaints indicate that a growing number of victims are facing “government documents or benefits fraud,” with 43.4 percent claiming “tax or wage related fraud.” This form of information misuse is higher than all other categories, including “credit card fraud,” “bank fraud,” and “loan fraud.”
BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington cautions consumers of thieves who are trying to get their hands on financials, Social Security numbers and other identifiers.
Unofficial Tax Preparation Services: Are tax preparation companies properly registered with the state? Do preparers have proper certifications? Can professionals provide Preparer Tax Identification Numbers or PTINs? Find authorized e-file providers at irs.gov.
Unverifiable Websites: Do tax service URLs arrive via email, text message, fax, mail or phone? Do not click links or type in websites from unsolicited communications; instead, use search engines to locate official sources.
Unsecured Sites: Do Web addresses contain “s” after “http?” Are there lock symbols on screens? Don’t enter personal data until security is verified.
Unprotected Policies: Do websites include privacy policies? Always read companies’ information handling practices before proceeding.
Unlocked Places: Are tax forms and other personal documents stored in safe, lockable locations? Avoid storing W-2s, 1099s, completed tax forms and other important paperwork in mailboxes, vehicles or publicly accessible areas.
Unneeded Paperwork: Are private forms piling up? Don’t just throw them out. Review the retention recommendations from the IRS. Safely discard outdated documents for free at BBB’s Secure Your ID Day: akorww.bbb.org/secure-your-id.