How to prevent tax scammers from stealing your refund

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Your identity is at risk and now more than ever protecting your identity is key as millions of consumers have their personal information stolen each year.

It's Tax ID Theft Awareness week and with tax season right around the corner, scammers are trying to file phony tax returns and steal refunds.

The IRS wants you to be aware that if scammers have enough personal information on you, they will attempt to file a tax return in your name and try and get the refund before you even realize it. You don't know you're a victim until you file your taxes and the IRS lets you know a return has already been filed in your name.

Scammers steal your information in several ways, including phishing scams or through a data breach. Alyssa Parker with the BBB of Eastern North Carolina says, "This ID theft can happen because you got involved in maybe another scam, you may have thought it was smaller, but now you are seeing the repercussions of having your ID stolen."

SEE ALSO | Scam alert: Tax-themed phishing scams sneaking into inboxes

You always need to protect your social security number. If you're a victim of ID theft, consider getting an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN). This is a six-digit number, which, in addition to your Social Security number, confirms your identity. Once you apply, you must provide the IP Pin each year when you file your federal tax returns. Visit IRS.gov for more information.

Here are tips from the BBB on how to avoid Tax ID Theft Scams:

File early. 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 information.

Watch out for red flags. If a written notice from the IRS arrives in the mail about a duplicate return, respond promptly. Or, if an IRS notice arrives stating you received wages from somewhere you never worked, or receive other notices that don't actually apply to you, contact the IRS office immediately.

Protect your Social Security number. Don't give out your SSN unless there's a good reason, and you're sure who you're giving it to.

Research your tax preparer. Make sure your tax preparer is trustworthy before handing over your personal information.

Another way to protect your identity is to shred everything before you throw it in the garbage as scammer still go throw trash to get information.
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