Proactive steps to protect yourself from scammers - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Proactive steps to protect yourself from scammers

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Want to keep from becoming a victim of identify theft?  It's a hot topic as Heartland police report near record numbers for tax return fraud. 

The bad news: Heartland News learned no one is ever completely immune to scammers.

The good news: There are steps you can take to make yourself as protected as possible and that are quicker than cleaning up a huge financial mess.

"Nation wide it's huge," Paula Huggins said.

Huggins is a certified public accountant in Cape Girardeau.  

She said she's had significantly more cases than usual this year of tax returns rejected because a scammer already filed it.

"We have had probably around seven and for our practice that's a lot since we're small," she said. 

"Then I make the phone call explaining that they've been a victim," said Huggins. "It's devastating to most of them," she said. "It means they'll have to wait longer for their refund and it seems the ones that have been scammed are those expecting bigger refunds. They'll also have to then file by paper." 

Huggins said this latest tax issue sends a bigger message overall. 

"It makes you aware how many people do have access to your information," said Huggins. 

All scammers need: your date of birth, name, address and Social Security number.

Many banks offer tips before you become a victim.

"We take many steps to put our customers first because banking needs these days have many facets and security is a major issue we always want to be on top of," said Lee Ann Tally, a branch operations officer at the Bank of Missouri's Cape Girardeau Branch on William Street.  

Tally recommends taking simple proactive steps: shredding receipts, changing passwords and using as many ID protection systems as you can. 

"That actually helps a person have safe guards from becoming a victim and gives them support if they were ever a in a bind," said Tally.  

Tally also recommend online banking to check your account in depth 24-7 and text alerts from the bank reporting your balance. 

"It can give you an alert if you balance reaches below a certain amount," said Tally.  

She also suggests getting your annual credit report to help monitor your accounts and check for things on your report you may not be aware of.  

To protect yourself from tax scams next year, Huggins said filing early helps but she feels the IRS needs to take more steps to protect your records. 

"I think the IRS has to address the issue because it's huge," said Huggins. "I think it would be very helpful if they issued pin numbers before accounts are compromised instead of after.  

Tally recommends that you never give out your social security number online or over the phone or email if you don't think it's necessary.

She also said if someone asked for your pin number to a card or account you should beware. It could also be a sign you need to call and check your accounts because someone could be on the verge of stealing your information.

Local CPAs and banks say you can never do too much monitoring. 

"It's always good to get to know your banker and use a local bank where you can have that face to face conversation with someone that knows your and your banking needs," Tally said. 

Local CPAs and individuals find if their own or a client's taxes have compromised, the dollar dilemma hasn't spilled over into their bank account.

No other accounts were hacked in cases we've researched.  

If you're concerned about your tax refund or your return you can go on the IRS website and check your account transcript. If you discover you were scammed you will likely get you refund three to six months later than expected.

The Bank of Missouri offers protection tips to safeguard your identity through ID Protect. They suggest removing your name from pre-screened credit offers at www.optoutpreescreen.com

Tally also recommends adding your name the National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov

You should also avoid carrying Social Security cards, birth certificates, passports or extra credit cards. Experts also say it is helpful to avoid unsecured mailboxes and promptly remove your mail from your mail box. 

To learn more about ID Protection visit: https://www.idprotectme247.com/sec/

Meanwhile the Better Business Bureau of Cape Girardeau will have a Shred Day on Saturday, May 9 at 8 a.m. until noon.

Shred Day will be at West Park Mall on William Street in Cape Girardeau.

ID Theft prevention materials will also be on hand.

For more information, you can contact Joey Keys at 573-803-3190. 

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