RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Tax season is here and crooks are looking for an easy to get their hands on your money and private information. If you are not careful, you could be the victim of identity theft.
Roz Johnson says a phony message on her cell phone claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service, could have ended with a financial disaster. Fortunately for her, Johnson was on to the deception. "Number one, they are going to send me a certified letter return receipt requested. They are not going to place it on my cell phone," she said.
On a weekly basis, NBC12 gets calls in our Call 12 Center about viewers receiving the bogus IRS calls or the deceptive emails. These crooks are after your information and if they get it, experts say you could not only be out of your money but you could the victim of ID theft.
Douglas Alexander of Alexander Financial Services says it's a constant problem. "The information is not being protected, so they are getting Social Security Numbers and other personal information and they are able to file tax returns fraudulently," he said.
Alexander says you are your own best protection. While the IRS is aware of the problem, you need to keep in mind the agency will never call or send emails threatening an arrest or claiming you owe money. You would get a letter in the mail. Not being vigilant could give criminals access to your bank and your credit cards, even your checking accounts at the bank. "They get the money and then when you, the legitimate tax payer, finally files, the IRS has a red flag. They could hold up your refund and it could take months before this matter is finally resolved," he said.
Alexander says filing early, filing electronically and safeguarding your personal information will reduce the risk of becoming a victim. He says it's a race to beat the criminals. Their goal is to steal your information and file before you do. If you think you're a victim contact the IRS right away. To limit the danger, contact the major credit reporting companies and put a fraud alert on your credit report.