In recognition of Identity Theft Awareness Week, Governor Brian Kemp, Attorney General Chris Carr, and State Revenue Commissioner Robyn Crittenden are offering consumers tips about tax preparation and how they can protect themselves from identity theft and tax-related scams:
“As hardworking Georgians begin to prepare their tax returns, we urge everyone to take steps to protect themselves and their families from digital and cyber criminals,” said Governor Kemp.
“During tax season, it is critically important that Georgians take the necessary steps to protect their personal and financial information from potential thieves. We urge all taxpayers to stay informed, alert and proactive throughout the filing process to ensure your hard-earned dollars are kept safe,” said Attorney General Carr.
“As tax filing season begins, we want to encourage taxpayers to be proactive in protecting their identity and personal information. The Department of Revenue is dedicated to processing income tax returns efficiently, while maintaining the highest level of security and guarding against criminal fraud,” said Revenue Commissioner Robyn Crittenden.
Tax Identity Theft
Tax identity theft occurs when a scammer uses your Social Security number (SSN) to file a tax return in your name and collect your refund. It also occurs when someone uses your SSN to get a job. Typically, consumers don’t realize they have been victims of tax identity theft until they get a written notice from the IRS stating that more than one tax return was filed using their SSN or that they received wages that they did not report.
The best way to avoid tax identity theft is to file your taxes as early as possible before a scammer has the chance to use your Social Security number to file a fraudulent return.
Georgia consumers can also receive an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) from the IRS before they file their returns. This is a six-digit number used to verify your identity. It is important to note that you cannot opt-out once you get an IP PIN. Once you apply for it, you must provide the IP Pin every time you file your federal tax returns. The IRS will provide your IP PIN online. A new IP PIN is generated for each filing season and can be retrieved starting in mid-January of each year by logging into the account you create. Visit irs.gov/individuals/get-an-identity-protection-pin for more information about the program.
What should you do if identity theft happens to you?
If you are the victim of tax identity theft, contact the IRS at 1-800-908-4490. You should also file a complaint with the FTC at https://www.identitytheft.gov/#/ or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.
IRS Impersonation Scams
In this type of scam, a fraudster contacts consumers by phone, claiming to be an IRS agent and insisting that the consumer owes the IRS money. The caller often threatens arrest or legal action if the consumer does not immediately pay by wiring money or loading money onto a gift card or pre-paid debit card. Consumers can easily be convinced that these calls are real as the scammer may know a consumer’s full or partial Social Security number or even use spoofing software that causes the IRS name and/or number to show up on your caller ID.
A new twist on this scam involves scammers threatening to suspend or cancel a taxpayer’s Social Security number to have a victim return a “robocall” voicemail.
Here is what you need to know to avoid this scam:
- The IRS will never call a consumer about unpaid taxes or penalties – the agency typically contacts consumers by letter via the U.S. Mail.
- The IRS will not leave a message threatening to sue you, arrest you, or deport you if you do not pay right away.
- The IRS will not demand a specific form of payment, such as an iTunes gift card or a wire transfer.
Additional Tax Tips
Many taxpayers are eligible for free tax preparation and e-filing through the IRS’ Free File program or Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free basic income tax preparation to those earning $58,000 or less, people with disabilities, the elderly and those with limited English-speaking ability. The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are aged 60 years or more. They specialize in questions about retirement-related issues unique to seniors. To find a VITA or TCE site in your area, go to: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/free-tax-return-preparation-for-qualifying-taxpayers
Consumers earning $73,000 or less can file their taxes for free using tax-preparation-and-filing software available through the IRS’ Free File program and the Georgia Department of Revenue’s Free File Alliance.
All consumers can use the IRS’s Free File Fillable Forms to file their federal income tax return for free, but you must know how to do your taxes yourself and have your previous year tax return available.