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Protect yourself from identity theft during tax season

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Fri, Mar 5th 2021 12:55 pm

Protect your sensitive information and tax refund: follow tips from Tax Department, New York State Office of Information Technology Services, Department of State

Guest Editorial by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance

The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, along with the New York State Office of Information Technology Services and the Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection, shared important tips to help New York taxpayers guard against identity theft and prevent tax fraud.

Tips to Prevent Identity Theft & Fraud

•File promptly. Filing your tax returns as soon as possible can reduce the likelihood that an identity thief will be able to claim a fraudulent tax refund using your stolen information. Free File software, available at the Tax Department website, www.tax.ny.gov, is easy, fast and secure.

Taxpayers with income of $72,000 or less in 2020 can electronically complete and submit their federal and New York state income tax returns online at no cost. Nearly 255,000 New York taxpayers used our Free File software last year, saving themselves a combined $51 million in the process.

To ensure you're not charged a fee, you must go to the Tax Department’s website to complete your return. You’ll save on costly tax preparation fees, prevent costly errors, and ensure that you receive any refund you’re owed in the most efficient way possible.

To be directed to the free filing options, simply click Free File your income tax return on the Tax Department’s website.

Take advantage of free tax return filing assistance. You may qualify for free assistance through the Tax Department. If your federal adjusted gross income in 2020 was $72,000 or less, you can receive free virtual tax assistance from a Tax Department expert. We can guide you through the process of electronically preparing and filing your 2020 federal and state income tax returns at no cost.

To register, see “Register for a virtual FSA session.”

•Choose direct deposit of your tax refund. You can receive the refund you’re owed up to two weeks sooner by e-filing and choosing direct deposit.

E-filing is safer, faster and more efficient than sending paper returns through the mail. And you’ll receive your refund faster if it’s directly deposited into your bank account rather than mailed as a paper check.

•Protect data and documents used to prepare your return. Keep sensitive personal information and documents safe during and after the filing process, and delete or shred once no longer needed. It’s important to regularly review the steps necessary to secure your sensitive information.

•If you hire a tax preparer, do your research to ensure they’re competent and ethical. Avoid tax preparers who boast that they can obtain larger refunds than their competitors can, who don’t provide you with their IRS preparer tax identification number (PTIN), or who base their fee on a percentage of your refund. See the Tax Department’s “Tips for hiring a tax preparer” webpage.

Make sure your tax preparer is willing to sign your return as your tax professional. The tax preparer must also provide you with a copy of your return.

•Carefully review your tax return. You’re responsible for the tax return’s accuracy. If you hire a paid preparer, never sign a blank return.

New York State Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Michael Schmidt said, “Tax season unfortunately is also scam season. Con artists are continually trying new ways of robbing people of their personal information as well as their peace of mind. It’s critical you take proper precautions to safeguard confidential data now and throughout the year.”

New York State Office of Information Technology Services Chief Information Officer Angelo “Tony” Riddick said, “Under the governor's leadership, New York state has taken important steps to enhance online security by safeguarding personal information, minimizing risk, and providing taxpayers with the tools they need to help protect themselves from cybercriminals. Tax season brings greater risks to individuals and families as cybercriminals look to exploit online information for deceptive purposes. Use these simple tips to protect your sensitive information and stay vigilant against any and all potential tax scams.”

New York State Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, “Scammers have been hard at work throughout the pandemic and are now kicking it into high gear with the start of tax season. I encourage all New Yorkers to follow basic tips to help keep their sensitive tax information from falling into the wrong hands.”

The Division of Consumer Protection is hosting a free virtual webinar, “Prevent and Protect from Identity Theft,” at 1 p.m. March 18. Register to participate here.

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