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Tax time: Red flags & tips to protect your sensitive information and refund

Submitted

Mon, Apr 3rd 2017 07:00 am

Scammers use a variety of tactics to steal sensitive information and refunds

Submitted by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance

The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance is alerting taxpayers to watch for red flags that can signal a tax-season scam.

1. Don't be fooled by threatening phone calls. Scammers posing as NYS Tax Department agents prey on unsuspecting taxpayers. Be sure you only give your personal information - including your social security number - to someone you trust. Remember, the NYS Tax Department will never threaten you with immediate arrest for failure to pay a tax debt. You can always contact the Tax Department to verify the identity of an agency employee.

2. Be cautious if you hire a tax preparer. Before you hire a tax preparer, ask:

•For a written estimate of all fees;

•About qualifications;

•If the preparer will e-file your return; and

•If the preparer will represent you if you're audited.

Taxpayers who use the services of paid tax preparers are entitled to protection from unfair treatment. The Consumer Bill of Rights Regarding Tax Preparers describes your rights and contains important information about how to protect yourself from unfair practices.

3. Beware of phishing emails. Some taxpayers have received emails designed with a NYS Tax Department logo that offer assistance in settling fake tax issues. Don't click on any links within the email or otherwise respond to it. The NYS Tax Department will never request personal or financial information by email.

 4. Avoid identity theft. Tax returns and related documents contain personal information highly valued by identity thieves, including social security numbers. One way to prevent identity theft is to shred documents with sensitive data before discarding.

 5. Question inflated refund claims. Beware if your tax preparer offers you an inflated refund, especially if he or she hasn't reviewed your information yet. You should also be skeptical of paying fees based on a percentage of the refund.

"Unfortunately, identity theft and scams are pervasive, so taxpayers must make the security of their private information a priority," Acting Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Nonie Manion said. "Any of these red flags should stop taxpayers in their tracks, so they can safeguard their sensitive information, hard-earned refund, and, by extension, their peace of mind."

Report It

If you've been contacted by a scammer posing as an IRS agent, or receive an email claiming to be from the IRS about a suspicious tax debt, you must contact the IRS. Learn how to report the incident here.

If you've been contacted by a con artist claiming to be from the New York State Tax Department, visit the Tax Department's Report fraud, scams, and identity theft webpage to learn how to anonymously report it. The Tax Department promptly reviews each complaint and takes corrective action when appropriate.

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