To coincide with Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, the AARP Fraud Watch Network is launching an education effort to help people protect themselves from tax scams, releasing a new video, a tip sheet and encouraging people to take advantage of AARP’s free tax preparation services.
Many taxpayers are putting themselves at greater risk of tax identity theft according to a recent national study released by the AARP Fraud Watch Network in conjunction with the education campaign to help prevent scammers from stealing Pennsylvanians’ hard-earned money.
“Throwing a pay stub in the trash may seem easier than finding a shredder, but the risk of having your tax refund stolen is just too great,” said AARP Pennsylvania State President Jim Palmquist. “The Fraud Watch Network is urging all Pennsylvanians to file early so you can beat con artists to the punch.”
Pennsylvania ranks 18th in ID theft complaints, according to the Federal Trade Commission. For the most current scam, tax identity thieves electronically file a tax return under someone else’s name after collecting just a birthdate and Social Security number. Unfortunately, many taxpayers make personal information easy pickings for scammers by:
• Failing to lock their mailbox. Almost six in ten (59%) Americans do not regularly lock their mailbox, which leaves them open to a criminal stealing bills, tax forms and other documents that contain personal information.
• Leaving valuables exposed: Over half (54%) of Americans 18-49 have left at least one valuable personal item in their car in the last week (e.g., a purse/wallet, paystub, laptop) that could be used to steal their identity.
• Failing to destroy personal information: More than one in five (21%) Americans say they never shred any of the personal documents that could be used to steal their identity.
Tips on how to protect yourself and your family from tax identity theft include:
• Do mail tax returns as early in the tax season as possible before the cons beat you to it.
• Don’t give out personal information unless you know who’s asking for it and why they need it.
• Shred personal and financial documents.
• Know your tax preparer.
Pennsylvanians are also encouraged to visit aarp.org/taxaide (1-888-227-7669) for information about AARP Foundation Tax Aide, the nation’s largest free, volunteer-run tax preparation program. Each tax season, Tax Aide helps millions of low- to moderate-income taxpayers – especially those 60 and older – get the credits and deductions they deserve.