FTC warns about tax related identity theft - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

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FTC warns about tax related identity theft

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COLUMBUS, Ga. -

Tax filing season will officially begin on January 31st, but the Federal Trade Commission is warning people of tax related identity theft this week. News 3 is on your side with what steps to take to keep your identity in tact. With tax season kicking off in just a couple weeks, people will be shopping around for a firm to prepare their taxes. The Better Business Bureau has some advice before you give out personal information .

The first month of a new year should bring a W-2 form from your employer, but if you don't take precautions it could also give criminals a way to steal your identity.

"As quick as it arrives, you want to retrieve it so that nobody can capture that, and go pretend that they are you and file your return for you," said Leonard Crain at the Better Business Bureau.

On that tax return form, there are a number of things that can change from year to year like where you work adn where you live, so you should take extra precaution to protect your personal information. Cedric Mitchell at Supreme Fast Tax says they see this problem frequently in Columbus and if thieves have your social security number and date of birth, they may be able to file on your behalf. The steps to get your refund back can be extensive.

"People get refunds as late as December from the IRS because it is a long process to go through to prove you are who you are. Because somebody has already been paid on that return," said Cedric Mitchell at Supreme Fast Tax.

To protect yourself the BBB says to make sure you trust your tax preparer. You can check their certifications and make sure they are properly registered with the IRS. In the United States, they must have a tax identification number. Mitchell says you should also refrain from giving out your social security number when you're shopping around for a tax preparer. He says you should be able to get an estimate without providing that information. Mitchell says if someone does steal your identity to get your refund, the IRS will give you a PIN number that changes every year so thieves won't be able to get your refund again. The BBB says you should always read the contract closely and avoid preparers who base their fees on a percentage of the refund.

For more information about tax related identity theft you can visit www.ftc.gov.

Naomi Keitt

Naomi Keitt focuses on education reporting for WRBL News 3. More>>

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