In recognition of Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, Attorney General Chris Carr and Department of Revenue Commissioner David Curry are offering consumers tips about tax preparation and encouraging them to protect themselves from tax-related scams.

“As tax season begins, we want to make sure con artists and thieves don’t swindle any Georgian out of his or her hard-earned dollars,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “Our message is this - be aware, be careful and be vigilant with your personal information.”

“Fighting tax identity theft and tax fraud are some of our major priorities,” said Revenue Commissioner David Curry. “Taxpayers can help in the fight against fraud by learning how to protect their information and by doing their due diligence to ensure they are entrusting their confidential taxpayer information to a reputable tax professional.”

Tax Identity Theft

Tax identity theft occurs when a fraudster 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.

As added security, Georgia consumers can get an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) from the IRS before they file their returns.  This is a six-digit number, which, in addition to your Social Security number, verifies 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 – this year and in all future years.  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.

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 ftc.gov/complaint 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 (SSN) or even use spoofing software that causes the IRS name and/or number to show up in your caller ID.

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.
  • They won’t leave a message threatening to sue you, arrest you or deport you if you don’t pay right away.
  • The IRS won’t demand a specific form of payment, such as an iTunes gift card, Green Dot Money Pak or wire transfer.
  • If you get a call purporting to be from the IRS, never send money. Instead, hang up and either a) report the scam to the FTC and to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at tigta.gov or by calling 1-800-366-4484; or b) If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is one.
  • If you get an email that claims to be from the IRS, do not reply or click on any links. Instead, forward it to phishing@irs.gov.

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 $56,000 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 irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep.
     
  • Consumers earning $69,000 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.
     
  • Consumers whose adjusted gross income is more than $69,000 a year can use the IRS’s Free File Fillable Forms  to do file their federal income tax return for free, but you must know how to do your taxes yourself and have your 2018 tax return available.

More tax tips can be found on the websites of the IRS and the Georgia Department of Revenue at irs.gov and dor.georgia.gov.