The IRS tax filing deadline in a little more than a month away. But as W-2s arrive and people file their taxes, the Better Business Bureau is warning that private information could fall into the wrong hands.
David Quinlan, BBB Senior Director of Public Relations and Community Outreach, offers these tips to avoid tax scams:
- Verification Requests: IRS and SSA impersonators send fake emails, letters and make phone calls to "verify" W-2 details. Some solicitations ask consumers to send forms by mail or upload W-2s on websites in order to capture personal identifiers.
- Special Offers: Tax return preparers advertise sales, discounts and incentives for those who agree to bring in W-2s, but problems arise when those preparers are unqualified or untrustworthy. Untrained staff could botch filings; or worse, corrupt employees may be collecting details to commit identity fraud.
- Thefts: Intruders know when W-2s are ripe to arrive in mailboxes. They also know that some consumers carelessly store forms in unsecured locations.
- Beware of phishing: If requests are unsolicited, do not release personal data. The IRS and SSA do not use email or social media sites to initiate W-2 collections. W-2 forms are submitted by employers, not taxpayers, and the IRS sends letters, not emails, when it needs more details. Report tax phishing scams to the IRS.
- Don't be persuaded by gifts and gimmicks: Be wary of big refund promises, Refund Anticipation Loans and tax preparation schemes. Before redeeming offers, read confidentiality agreements, privacy policies and other fine print.
- Verify credentials: Confirm reliability with IRS tips and check out "Tax Return Preparation" companies atbbb.org.
- Store W-2s in safe locations: Avoid leaving important paperwork and W-2s in unsecured places such as work offices, common living areas, vehicles and unlocked mailboxes; quickly relocate files to locked safes or secure file cabinets. If records are stored online, always password-protect computers and activate anti-virus software.