It’s hard to believe, but tax season once again is upon us. Many probably already have received forms in the mail or electronically and started working on their tax returns.

Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week was observed last week as the filing season gears up.

Tax identity theft occurs when a scammer files a fraudulent tax return using a Social Security number to steal a refund.

Victims might not know this has happened until they file their real returns and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rejects the filings because it thinks they already have filed.

There are many ways a scammer could have obtained a Social Security number, from a large-scale data breach to a simple dumpster-dive.

In some cases, there is nothing a victim could have done to prevent the identity theft, but a few tips can help people to keep their information secure:

  • Only disclose Social Security numbers when absolutely necessary, such as when filing taxes or applying for a loan. Be wary of websites or retailers that request this information.
  • Keep personal financial documents and past years’ tax returns in a secure location, such as a locked filing cabinet or a fire-safe box.
  • Protect personal computer files by installing firewalls, and anti-spam and antivirus software. Protect online accounts using strong passwords and Personal Identification Numbers.
  • Monitor credit reports for unauthorized or suspicious activity.

In addition to tax identity theft, IRS imposter scams have risen to become some of the most popular forms of scams reported and they often spike around tax time. It’s easy to see why.

It can be very scary to receive a telephone call stating that back taxes are owed, and if one doesn’t pay immediately, an agent will be sent to seize assets or even arrest the person.

Many consumers have been tricked into giving these scammers money through this high-pressure scam.

Remember, the IRS never will call and demand immediate payment. If taxes are owed, the IRS will mail a notice before trying to reach someone by phone.

Anyone who receives a call like this should hang up immediately. If they have any doubt about whether it was real, they can call the IRS directly at (800) 829-1040.

Anyone who thinks he or she might have been the victim of identity theft or a scam can file a report online with the Consumer Protection Division at www.InYourCornerKansas.org or call (800) 432-2310.

This information was provided by the Kansas Attorney General’s Office.