CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is urging consumers to protect personal information and exercise caution when preparing and filing their return this tax season.
Sensitive information such as Social Security numbers, financial information, birthdates and addresses are among the many things scammers could easily use to their advantage.
“Scammers are aware of tax filing deadlines and could be waiting to take advantage of your personal information,” Morrisey said. “It’s imperative that consumers be mindful of how they handle tax information and who processes tax-related documents on their behalf.”
Consumers can reduce the risk of fraud by filing their return well before the April 15 deadline. This gives thieves less time to file a false return since IRS records would show a filed return in the consumer’s name. Consumers also should use a secure internet connection and never file their return via publicly available Wi-Fi.
Additional tips 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 emails that may look legitimate at first glance: check for questionable display names, email addresses, names and spelling.
* Use caution with any unsolicited phone call, text message, email or social media post as impostors will use various means to threaten consumers and steal their personal information.
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 does not know.
Anyone who receives a letter from the IRS indicating potential impersonation immediately should call the agency’s Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.
Consumers who believe they may be the victim of tax-related identity theft are asked to contact the Attorney General’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.