IDAHO — Tax Day is just around the corner, and if you haven't filed yet, you'll want to submit your paperwork sooner rather than later.
Rebecca Barr from the Better Business Bureau says it's best to file early, giving scammers less of an opportunity to file in your place and commit tax identity theft. Con artists target consumer tax refunds by using stolen personal information, like social security numbers, to file a false tax return and get your refund.
Barr says you likely won't know you're a victim until you receive a notice from the IRS stating more than one tax return has been filed in your name. That's when you'll want to contact the IRS directly and put a fraud alert on your credit report.
You can help avoid this messy situation by filing as early as possible, right after receiving your W2 or other tax documents. You should also use a reputable tax preparer, whether online or in-person, to make sure they're legitimately handling your taxes and personal information appropriately.
If you do have to submit your taxes or other documents through the mail, do it from a local post office and not a street mailbox. If you're doing any of your tax filings online, make sure you're using a secure network to help protect your information.
Before you use a tax preparer, Barr says first do these three things: do your research, ask about fees ahead of time, and be wary of spectacular promises.
As you do your research, review the preparer's credentials. Enrolled agents, certified public accountants, and tax attorneys are all qualified to represent their clients to the IRS on all matters. Other preparers can help you with forms and basic matters but cannot represent you in case of an audit.
Don't agree to any services without reading contracts carefully and understand how much you'll be charged for services. Make sure to ask about extra fees for e-filing state, federal, and local returns, as well as fees for any unexpected complications.
Barr says also be wary if a tax preparer promises you larger refunds than the competition. Many such tax preparers base their fees on the amount of your return and could use shady tax preparation tactics.
For more ways to keep your finances and information safe, click here.