Identity Theft at Tax Time: How to Protect Your Refund

COLUMBIA, SC (WCBD)- With the deadline for the W-2 tax form fast approaching, scam artists know that tax time is just around the corner.

And, according to the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs (SCDCA) and the South Carolina Department of Revenue (SCDOR), tax evasion was the top way South Carolinians reported their identity theft in 2021.

The most common form of tax evasion occurs as follows: you go to file your taxes for the year and find that someone has already used your social security number to do so.

These tips can help protect refunds and personal information this tax season:

Watch out for our IRS and tax imposter scams

Scammers often pose as IRS or SCDOR employees to scare you into disclosing personal information and/or sending them money. The following voicemail is an example of a message you might receive from a fraudster:

Remember: the IRS will never call you about taxes without first sending you a notice by mail.

File early and securely online

Identity thieves often use consumer information to file fraudulent tax returns and steal refunds before individual consumers file their returns. You should therefore try to file your tax returns as soon as possible. The IRS and SCDOR will begin accepting 2021 individual tax returns on January 24, 2022.

If you file online, use anti-virus software on your computer and make sure the computer is connected to a secure Internet server. Use strong passwords and enable two-factor authentication whenever possible. You should avoid using public Wi-Fi to file your return online.

Get an Identity Protection PIN

Enjoy a free extra layer of protection offered by the IRS. Taxpayers who can verify their identity can choose to receive a unique six-digit Identity Protection PIN known only to the individual and the IRS.

Use a legitimate tax preparer

Make sure your tax preparer is licensed, reputable, and has an IRS preparer tax identification number. Stay involved in the process, beware of empty promises and never sign a blank statement.

You may also benefit from free tax preparation services provided by IRS-certified volunteers. Visit www.irs.gov or call (800) 906-9887 to verify your eligibility.

Comply with IRS and SCDOR identity checks

SCDOR has additional security measures in place to ensure scammers don’t use your information to misrepresent and steal your refund. Be on the lookout for a letter from SCDOR asking you to complete identity verification after filing your return.

If you think you have been the victim of a security breach, scam or identity theft:

  • Call (844) TELL DCA (835-5322)
  • Complete an Identity Theft Intake Form by going to www.consumer.sc.gov and clicking “Report Identity Theft.”
  • Visit dor.sc.gov/taxfraud to report tax fraud to SCDOR

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