SIDNEY — It’s tax season time. Are you prepared to file your taxes and protect your return from being stolen? And if it is stolen, how can you get it back?
Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart is offering tips on the subject in his weekly column.
According to Lenhart, 1 1/2 percent of all returns are stolen through fraudulent filings.
“The IRIS at the federal and local levels do their best to block these filings,” said Lenhart. “The electronic filing is the easiest to do and steal a return.
“Turbo Tax is an easy one. All the person needs is a Social Security card number and address,” said Lenhart. “Then they beat you to it by filing first.”
Lenhart said there are some ways to prevent your return from being stolen.
“The easiest way is to file early,” said Lenhart. “You should check your banking accounts regularly. If you pay monthly bills online, you are checking your account.”
But he said, you should also be checking for other payments — or lack of deposit of your return — on a regular basis.
“Be very careful who you give your information to,” said Lenhart. “People are phishing out there. They’ll call you on the phone and ask you for information to help you deal with troubles you having with your banking account or credit card. They’ll say they can increase your credit limit as they are phishing for personal information.”
Another way the “thieves” will get information, said Lenhart, is through the pop up ads on your computer.
“They’ll say you won something and when you click on it, you might have to give information,” said Lenhart. “You have to look at the websites carefully to make sure it’s a regular place where you shop and it is the right website.”
Also, said Lenhart, shred all your paperwork before throwing it away.
If you go to file and someone has “beat you to it” there are steps to follow to get your return back, said Lenhart.
“Call the IRS immediately,” said Lenhart if your return has been stolen. “You’ll have to go online and go through a lengthy process to get your money back.
“You’ll need to gt all the information they want so show you are due a legitimate refund,” he said. “You might get it back in six months. You must be patient and follow what they want. You’ll have to provide legitimate information to prove who you are.”
Prevention is the best way to avoid something stealing your tax refund, he said.
“The IRS at the state and federal level do a good job of preventing this,” said Lenhart. “You can change your passwords as a part of your prevention. And do credit checks to make sure no one is stealing your identity.”
The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.