Morrisey warns of tax scams - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Morrisey warns of tax scams

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With tax season nearing its end, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is advising residents to be on the lookout for scams.

"Scammers may be looking to take advantage of those who have still not yet filed," Morrisey said. "Consumers who have received or expect to receive a tax refund also must stay alert to protect themselves from identity theft. Scammers have been known to file fraudulent refund claims using another person's identity, which ends up victimizing innocent citizens."
According to the Internal Revenue Service, stopping identity theft related to refund fraud is one of its top priorities. The agency said it will send notices to consumers or their tax preparers if it believes a filer's identity has been compromised. Red flags include:

More than one tax return filed in the consumer's name

*The consumer had a balance due, refund offset or had collection actions taken against him or her for a year he or she did not file a tax return;

*IRS records indicate the person received more wages than he or she actually earned

*The person's state or federal benefits were reduced or canceled because the agency received information reporting an income change.

"If you receive a letter from the IRS alerting you to one of these red flags, it is critical for consumers to respond immediately," Morrisey said. "But also be cautious, the IRS will never call you out of the blue and demand that you make an immediate payment with a pre-paid debit card or money order for taxes you supposedly own. That is a scam going around the nation right now."
Morrisey offered the following tips to consumers to help them avoid becoming a victim of identity theft:

* Shred all documents that have sensitive personal and financial information and are no longer needed.

* Do not give out your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification number to anyone over the phone or via email. Do not carry documents that include those numbers.

* Do not voluntarily surrender your Social Security number or taxpayer ID number to businesses. Give it only when required.

* If you are using online tax services make sure you are using a secure Internet connection that has firewalls and anti-spam/virus software. Make sure to update security patches and change your password frequently. Do not use the same password for multiple websites.

* Never use obvious passwords such as your date of birth or the last four digits of your Social Security number when using online services.

* Store all your tax and financial information in one secure place.

*Check your credit report every 12 months.

"Consumers should always remember to never give personal information over the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless they initiated the contact," Morrisey said. "And always validate that you are sure you know who you are talking and dealing with."
If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft, call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808 or the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490 to ensure you are not a part of a tax-related scam.
Additionally, victims of identity theft should:

* File a report with the Federal Trade Commission at consumer.ftc.gov or by calling the FTC Identity Theft hotline at 877-438-4338 or TTY 866-653-4261.

* File a report with the local police.

* Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and Trans Union.

* Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.

"Our office encourages consumers to follow some of these tips and educate themselves on how to protect their information so they can enjoy a less stressful tax season," Morrisey said.

Contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division for more information.