Editorial

Beat scammers to the punch; file tax returns early

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Suppose you just tend to put things off.

Or perhaps some of the tax documents you need to file are slow to arrive.

You finally get around to submitting your return and are shocked to find out itís already been done, and the refund went to an address that isnít yours.

Donít scoff; it can happen and has happened to people you may know.

Unfortunately, thanks to the convenience of electronic filing and other technological advances, tax ID fraud is one of the fastest-growing scams around. For that reason, this week has been designated Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week.

A tax refund, which averages $3,100 for a U.S. consumer, is an inviting target, especially for criminals who are able to multiply that by a listing of stolen Social Security numbers.

In case you donít remember, 145 million Americans were affected by a 2017 data breach at the Equifax credit bureau. The IRS anticipates receiving only 155 million individual tax returns, which shows how much impact that data breach could have.

Itís not just tax returns, of course. You may find yourself receiving bills for gas, water, power, cable or telephone, with your name but at addresses you donít recognize.

Or, the first sign may be that you receive a notice from the IRS that more than one tax return was filed under your Social Security number, or that records show you were paid by an employer you donít know.

Tax returns have just begun being accepted this week, so itís a good idea to submit yours as soon as possible, to beat potential fraudsters to the punch.

Remember, the IRS does not request personal information from individuals via text, emails or social media.

For questions or concerns about suspected tax fraud, Nebraskans can call the Attorney Generalís office at (800) 742-7474, or, for federal returns, visit ItentityTheft.gov.

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