CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is reminding residents to be cautious and to protect personal information when preparing and filing the necessary tax documents this year.
Sensitive information such as Social Security numbers, finances, birthdays and addresses are some of the many things scammers could easily use to their advantage.
“Scammers know tax season comes at the same time every year,” Morrisey said in a statement. “They could be waiting in the wings to take advantage of the available information. That’s why it’s extremely important to be mindful of how you handle the information and who handles it on your behalf.”
The AG's office says consumers can greatly reduce the risk of fraud by filing their return well before the deadline. This gives thieves less time to file a false return since IRS records would show a return in the consumer’s name has already been filed. They also should use a secure Internet connection and never file their return via publicly available wi-fi.
Other tips provided by the AG's office include:
* Never carry a Social Security card, banking information or any other personally identifiable information in a wallet. Keep such documents in a secure location.
* Cross shred documents. Identity thieves rummage through trash to find information.
* Be wary of suspicious emails that look legitimate, however are meant to steal personal information.
* Know the Internal Revenue Service does not contact taxpayers via text message, email or social media.
* Be aware that unsuspecting victims of tax-related identity theft often receive a letter from the IRS saying it received multiple tax returns filed in the victim’s name or indicate the taxpayer received wages from an employer he or she doesn’t know.
The office asks anyone who receives a letter from the IRS indicating potential impersonation to call the agency’s Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490. They also can contact the AG's Consumer Protection Office at 1-800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.