If you don’t file your tax return early, a crook might just do it for you

Consumer Report

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A word of advice from officials in South Carolina and Georgia: file your tax return early.

Both states are warning taxpayers that tax fraud identity theft is a problem as this tax season gets underway.

In recognition of Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr and Department of Revenue Commissioner David Curry offered consumers advice about tax preparation.

“As Georgians prepare to file their taxes this year, we want to provide a few tips and warnings to make sure con artists and thieves don’t swindle our taxpayers out of their hard-earned dollars,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “Be aware and be vigilant with your personal information.”

How can this happen you might ask? Tax-related identity fraud happens because a scam artist somehow gets ahold of your social security number and then files a tax return in your name. The point is always about money and in this case, it’s about getting your tax refund. Up to 70 percent of filers get a refund in some amount so chances are pretty good that crooks will profit by the scheme.

Anyone whose social security number may have been compromised in some way such as a data breach is especially at risk.

Experts advise:

1) Filing as soon as you can. They say the sooner you are able to file your return, the less of a chance a crook has to do it with your information.

2) Know your tax preparer. There are new warnings that some dishonest people may actually be setting up shop and claiming to prepare taxes so they can steal your information. So check out the credentials of anyone you are going to entrust with your tax preparation.

3) It’s advised you file electronically. (In Georgia, you can get a special PIN number to use for an added step of security.)

4) If you are filing your taxes electronically, make sure you only do so from a secure internet connection. Don’t trust an unsecured public Wifi network.

5) If you mail your return, do not put it in your mailbox as someone could steal it and retrieve your information. Mail only from the post office.

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