DeWine warns of tax-related identity theft

COLUMBUS – The number of complaints about tax-related identity thefts received by the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section Identity Theft Unit has increased, officials said..

“Of all the tax-related identity theft complaints my office has on file, more than half of the complaints were made in March, and we still have a few days to go,” Attorney General Mike DeWine said. “With the tax filing deadline just a few weeks away, it is important for consumers to be aware of these tax-related identity theft issues and how to prevent them.”

Tax-refund fraud can occur when an identity thief obtains a taxpayer’s social security number and files for, and receives, the taxpayer’s refund. It can also occur when people entrust their personal information to fraudulent tax preparers.

Employment-earnings tax fraud can occur when an identity thief uses someone else’s social security number to get a job, and the employer reports the thief’s income to the IRS. When the legitimate taxpayer files a tax return and does not include the thief’s earnings, IRS records will show that the taxpayer failed to fully report their income.

To avoid identity theft and tax return fraud, the attorney general recommends:

* File taxes as soon as possible.

* When filing online, make sure that the website is secure with the address beginning with “https”.

* Avoid tax preparers who promise significantly higher refunds than other organizations.

* Ensure that the tax preparer holds the appropriate credentials

* Check the tax preparer’s reputation with the Ohio Attorney General and Better Business Bureau.

* Never sign a blank tax form.

* Ask questions and review tax returns thoroughly before signing and filing anything with the IRS.

* Frequently check the mail because thieves may steal tax-related documents and personal information from mailboxes.

Consumers who believe they are a victim of identity theft can notify the Identity Theft Unit at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515.