Protect yourself from tax identity fraud

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)- Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has issued a consumer alert to warn against tax identity fraud.

Earlier this week, the IRS said it has identified more than 14 million suspicious tax returns since 2011. Criminal investigations of fraudulent filings were up 66% from the year before.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, tax identity theft occurs when someone files a phony tax return using a consumer's personal information, like a Social Security number.

"We've seen in the headlines a lot of peoples identity be stolen," said LJ Bryant, vice president of Jackson Hewitt Tax Services.

With tax season almost here, scammers are looking to file your tax return before you do.

"Most importantly be on the look out, if you're expecting two W2's and you only got one , be wondering where the other one is maybe it went to a bad address, maybe someone got into your mailbox," Bryant said.

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel suggests filing early as possible to avoid someone filing a fake return. Bryant said you should also be careful when giving out your social security number.

"Nowadays every time you go to a retain establishment they are trying to get you to get a credit card and they are asking for your social and all those things are laying around so you have to be very careful who gets that information," he said.

Tax identity theft occurs when someone files a phony tax return using a persons information like a Social Security number. Bryant said they scan their client's documents before destroying them.

"You don't want folks to get your social," Bryant said. "Watch your online banking, if there are strange or suspicious activity, call your bank."

McDaniel also suggest using a secure Internet connection instead of a public WIFI spot when filing electronically. And shred unneeded copies of your tax return.

"The IRS is typically going to acknowledge your return in 24-48 hours , so you're going to know pretty quickly if somebody else has used your identity," Bryant said.

It's also important to remember that the IRS will never contact you by email, text or through social media.

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