Taxpayers need to be on the lookout for identity theft scams

The tax filing season is usually hectic enough for consumers without having to worry about being ripped off by criminals, but the problem is that people who would commit identity theft know this fact all too well. That is what brings them out of the woodwork every single year around this time, in an attempt to gain access to some fast cash and very sensitive personal information for potentially large numbers of people.

Identity theft scams related to taxes have become far more prevalent in recent years, and can affect consumers who aren't being extremely careful in a number of ways, according to a report from Arkansas television station KATV. These can include filing fraudulent tax returns based on stolen personal information (such as a victim's name, address, and Social Security number); pretending to be a licensed professional, but using the information gleaned from a potentially large number of "clients" to commit fraud down the line, while simultaneously not filing their returns, or submitting them with significant errors; and even something as simple as stealing refunds and other sensitive tax documents from their mailboxes and using them for their own personal gain.

Keep a close eye
Fortunately, government agencies are moving to stamp out this problem in any way they can, but that doesn't mean that taxpayers nationwide shouldn't be extremely vigilant, the report said. The number of cases of reported tax-related identity theft has skyrocketed in recent years, climbing into the millions nationwide, and many victims don't even know they've been hit for months at a time.

"What we've seen over the last couple of years is a substantial increase in tax ID theft," Dustin McDaniel, attorney general for the state of Arkansas, told the station. "You should file your tax return as early as you're able to do. None of us want to file it early. We all want to put it off until the last minute, but the sooner you can get it filed, the safer you're going to be because it allows the IRS and [Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration] to check for any duplicates."

In general, consumers should try to avoid tax professionals who don't have a sterling reputation that can be easily researched online, and should always take great care to make sure their sensitive information is as safeguarded as possible. 

For a more in-depth look at Liberty Tax Service, visit the Give Me Liberty! Magazine. Follow Liberty Tax on Facebook and on Twitter or contact Liberty Tax directly at 1-877-at-Liberty.