Everybody loves a tax refund — especially bad guys, who want yours.
That’s the message from state Attorney General Dave Yost, who on Thursday urged Ohioans to watch out for scammers this tax season and to protect personal information and refund dollars.
“They’re rubbing their hands with glee now that it is tax season, and their favorite criminal tool is your personal information,” Yost said in a statement.
The Attorney General’s Office has already received more than 130 reports of tax-related scams in January.
Here are some tips to avoid falling victim to tax scams:
- File your taxes as soon as possible. Tax identity theft generally occurs when someone steals your personal information to file a tax return and fraudulently obtain your refund. The sooner you file, the less likely it is that someone can file on your behalf.
- Choose a reputable tax preparer. If you use a tax preparer, make sure they have the credentials you’re looking for by visiting the IRS’ Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers or by confirming a certified public accountant’s credentials. Before having your tax return prepared, ask about all associated fees. Research a business with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau.
- Protect your personal information. If you file your taxes online, make sure to use a secure internet connection. If you file by mail, take your completed return directly to the post office. Keep sensitive documents in a secure place. Shred any unneeded documents that contain your Social Security number or other sensitive information.
- Consider the costs of any “fast” refunds: Offers for instant or “fast” refunds may be costly refund anticipation loans or refund anticipation checks. These products may involve substantial fees. Avoiding a refund anticipation loan may save you money without diminishing the amount of your refund. When filing your taxes electronically, you can have any refund directly deposited into your bank account, typically within a few weeks.
Consumers who suspect a scam or an unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or (800) 282-0515.