Tax fraud on the rise, how to avoid it - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Tax fraud on the rise, how to avoid it

(Source: Nichole Cartmell/KFVS) (Source: Nichole Cartmell/KFVS)

Tax season is officially underway. Investigators said it is also the time of year where identity thieves are hard at work.

According to the St. Francois County Sheriff's department, the department has taken three to five reports a day from residents who have filed legitimate income tax returns, only to be notified by their tax preparer or the IRS that it has been rejected because someone has already filed a return under their social security number.

Paula Huggins, a tax preparer in Cape Girardeau, says tax fraud is a major issue.

She says she runs a relatively small tax service, however, 10 to 12 of her clients were a victim of tax fraud last year.

Huggins says criminals will typically get your social security number, create a fake W-2 and file for a return.

The problem, Huggins says, is that by the time you file for a legit tax return, the criminals are long gone.

She said for some of her clients it took nearly 9 months for them to get their returns.

There are ways to protect against this type of fraud. 

You can go to the IRS website to create an electronic filing Personal Identification Number (PIN) to use when you file your return. You can find it here.

The electronic filing PIN is associated with your social security number, so anyone trying to use your personal information to file a fraudulent return will not be able to.

You should also monitor your credit report using the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

The IRS also suggests securing your personal information. It says you shouldn't carry any documentation with your social security number on it and don't leave your W2 in a place where someone can snatch it.

The IRS advises protecting your personal computer as well with firewalls and anti-virus software.

If you think your personal information has been compromised, you should file a report with your local law enforcement agency.

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