The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Commissioner Nikki Fried are joining the Federal Trade Commission this week to raise awareness of consumer fraud during Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week.
“This tax season, scammers, thieves, and IRS imposters are hard at work trying to steal your money. As Florida’s consumer services watchdog, our department is here to help reduce your chances of tax identity theft by learning how to spot red flags,” Fried said on Monday. “Protect yourself against these scams by following these consumer tips and learn what to do if you or someone you know encounters tax identity fraud.”
Identity tax theft occurs when an individual uses a Social Security number (SSN) to file a phony tax return and improperly collect a refund. Often, IRS imposters or scammers pretend they’re calling from the IRS and claim you owe taxes, demanding that you pay right now, usually with a gift card or prepaid debit card. They threaten you’ll be arrested or face other consequences if you don’t pay.
What should consumers do?
Consumers can call 1-800-HELP-FLA (1-800-FL-AYUDA en español) or visit FloridaConsumerHelp.com to access helpful resources and ensure the security of your financial identity. To file a complaint regarding your tax identity, use the Division of Consumer Services website or call 1-800-HELP-FLA (1-800-FL-AYUDA en Español).
Follow these tips to protect yourself:
Protect your SSN throughout the year. Don’t give it out unless there’s a good reason and you’re sure who you’re giving it to.
File your tax return as early in the tax season as you can.
Use a secure internet connection if you file electronically or mail your tax return directly from the post office.
Research a tax preparer thoroughly before you hand over personal information.
Check your credit report at least once a year for free at annualcreditreport.com. Make sure no one has opened a new account in your name.
The Federal Trade Commission is a partner agency to FDACS at the federal level and also has helpful consumer information on how to avoid scams. The FTC also prepares free webinars and other events during Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week.