Attorney General Morrisey Reminds Consumers to Protect Themselves Against Tax-Related Identity Theft
CHARLESTON — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey today encouraged West Virginia residents to be mindful about protecting their personal and financial information as they begin receiving their income tax preparation documents.
“With income tax season upon us, it’s important for consumers to be even more vigilant about protecting their financial information from thieves and scammers,” Attorney General Morrisey said.
Tax-related identity theft can occur in a number of ways. In some cases, it can be as easy as a thief stealing W-2 forms or other tax documents from mailboxes. In other instances, scammers will send out authentic-looking phishing e-mails to unsuspecting consumers asking for personal information. In more egregious cases, phony or dishonest tax preparers will steal client information for their own use or pass it along to identity thieves.
“While it’s disappointing to think there are people who would abuse the public’s trust this way, the fact is, there are some bad apples out there,” Morrisey said. “With that in mind, it’s critical to do your homework and ensure you select a reputable tax preparer or service before you hand over your personal information.”
For those who self-file electronically, there are some important items to keep in mind, as well. For instance, filing returns early in the tax season gives would-be thieves less of an opportunity to file false returns. Consumers also should only use a secure internet connection to file their taxes. Don’t file tax returns at publicly available Wi-Fi hotspots, such as coffee shops or hotels.
A few other helpful things to remember as you prepare to file your income taxes this year:
• The IRS will not contact you by text message, e-mail, or through social media. If the IRS does need to contact you, it will do so through mail.
• Respond to all mail from the IRS as soon as possible.
• Don’t simply throw away old copies of your tax returns and calculations, shred them. Identity thieves often go through trash cans to find discarded information.
“Identity theft, especially tax-related identity theft, is a growing concern,” Morrisey said. “Our office wants to make sure to not only help West Virginia’s consumers learn how to protect themselves from becoming a victim, but make sure we help them take the steps to recover as quickly as possible in the event they do become a victim.”
Often, the first time consumers learn they’ve been the victim of tax-related identity theft is when they receive a letter from the IRS saying it received more than one tax return filed in their name, or they received wages from an employer they do not know. If you receive a letter like this from the IRS, call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.
If you believe you may be the victim of tax-related identity theft, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Office at 1-800-368-8808. For information, including ways you can help protect yourself against this kind of identity theft, visit www.irs.gov/identitytheft or www.ftc.com/identitytheft.