For this week’s “Tuesday’s Tips,” the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) shares important tips to help New York taxpayers stop identity thieves and tax fraudsters from stealing their identity and hard-earned money. DCP urges New Yorkers to stay vigilant against scams targeting taxpayers not only during tax season, but also year-round.
“Fraudsters are always finding new ways to steal money and personal information from innocent people, and unfortunately, tax filings are full of personal information they want to get a hold of,” said New York State Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez. “I urge all New Yorkers to stay vigilant while preparing their taxes this year, and follow our Division of Consumer Protection’s tips so you can outsmart these bad actors year round.”
Acting Commissioner of Department of Taxation and Finance, Amanda Hiller said, “Always keep your guard up when it comes to your personal information. This is especially important during tax filing season. If you’re doing your own taxes, be especially careful when mailing or electronically filing your returns. If you’re using a tax service, know your rights under the state’s Bill of Rights for those who use a tax preparer.”
While taxpayer scams can take on a variety of forms, the following tips include some examples of scams to look out for:
File early! File promptly using e-file and direct deposit of your tax refund. 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. Filing electronically is also safer, faster and more efficient than sending paper returns through the mail.
Mail your tax returns from a secure location. If mailing, mail directly from the post office. Never leave mail in your home mailbox for pickup by your letter carrier. Do not allow the tax preparer to mail your return.
Avoid Phishing Scams and Government Impersonators. Scammers use email, text messages or calls to trick you into giving your personal or financial information. Remember, the IRS and NYS will typically first initiate contact with a taxpayer concerning a tax issue via regular mail. Government agencies do not request personal or financial information through email and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone. Government agencies also don’t send tax refunds by email or text. For more tips, check out this recent press release from the Federal Trade Commission.
Beware of scam artists posing as tax preparers. If you choose to file your tax return using a tax preparer, take precautions to protect your refund and prevent identity theft by keeping the following tips in mind:
- Work only with tax preparers whom you have researched thoroughly. Avoid preparers who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers can, as well as those who base their fee on a percentage of your refund.
- Make sure your tax preparer is willing to sign your return and provide their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). The preparer must also provide you with a copy of the return.
- Look over your return carefully – you are legally responsible for what’s on it. Similarly, never sign a blank return.
For tips on choosing a tax preparer, check out these resources:
- Internal Revenue Service’s Tips to Help Choose a Reputable Tax Preparer and
- NYS Department of Taxation and Finance’s Consumer Bill of Rights Regarding Tax Preparers
To report fraudulent activity by a tax preparer, contact the NYS Tax Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility at (518) 530-HELP (option #2) or file a tax preparer complaint online.
About the New York State Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides resources and education materials to consumers on product safety, as well as voluntary mediation services between consumers and businesses. The Consumer Assistance Helpline 1-800-697-1220 is available Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, excluding State Holidays, and consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection.
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