Keeping scammers clear of your tax returns

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File (Photo Illustration by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

It’s tax season, and that means scammers are looking to capitalize on your returns. 

Danielle Kane of the Better Business Bureau (KOIN)

In this week’s Wallet Wednesday, Danielle Kane from the Better Business Bureau in Portland sat down with Jenny and Emily to talk about the most common scams we’re seeing.  

Getting “Ghosted” by Illegit Tax Preparers

Ghost preparers actually prepare the tax return, but when it’s submitted to the IRS, they ask the taxpayer to sign their own return, making it look like it was self-filed, Kane explained. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, until something goes wrong and the preparer is nowhere to be found. 

The BBB’s Number #1 Tip: Ask for the preparer’s Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Every preparer must have one, as mandated by the IRS. If they don’t or won’t provide one, Kane urges you to find another person or place to file your taxes.

Tax ID Theft

You file your taxes as normal and expect a refund from the IRS. Instead, you get a written IRS notice saying that more than one tax return was filed using your Social Security number. 

This means scammers got ahold of your personal information, such as your Social Security number, address, and birth date. They filed your return early and received your refund before you even got around to filing. Kane says Tax ID theft is a particularly sneaky con because victims typically don’t realize they’ve been targeted until they try to file their taxes for real.

The BBB’s Top Tips to avoid it:  File early and beat the scammers to the punch.  Also, if you were notified you were the victim in an earlier data breach or believe you have fallen victim to another type of scam where your SSN was shared, consider setting up an Identity Protection PIN (this is a six-digit number, which, in addition to your Social Security number, confirms your identity).

Finding the Right Tax Preparer You Can Trust

Kane says there are different levels of expertise and mandated education that different service providers have.  Learn about the differences between Enrolled Agents, Certified Public Accountants, and Tax Attorneys, and how that affects their qualifications and pricing. 

Go to BBB.org to find accredited tax preparation services in your area, read reviews and complaints before you file.

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