JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The tax filing season began at the end of January and will run through April 15, and between now and that deadline you can expect an increase in tax filing fraud complaints.
"There are people trying to get your information so they can file a phony tax return with the information you gave them," said Ed Bides.
Bides is bank security officer for Jacksonville-based Florida Capital Bank.
"We tell people the IRS will not call you nor send you an email stating you owe them money," he said.
In his role, he has seen his share of complaints. If it is a bank customer he does what he can to help. If it is not a customer, he refers them to the IRS.
"There's an 800 number and they will gladly provide any assistance," said Bides.
These are called crimes of opportunity, and the burden is on you to not give them the opportunity. You can begin by guarding your personal information and not be willing to share with anyone.
"You have these imposter websites, or pop-ups that offer to do your tax return for free," said Bides. "Be careful."
Unfortunately many consumers do not believe they can nor will become a scam victim, but data security experts say IRS-related scams are becoming increasingly prevalent.
So Bides is raising awareness. Florida Capital Bank has dedicated space on its website to warn consumers.
According to published reports last tax season there were more than 2 million complaints and total financial loss reached $80 million.
Ed Bides said he has seen or heard all kind of complaints; in one case he said the victim lost $200,000.
"It is the trick of the talk. What they're trying to do is get you to slip up one time and give them that information," said Bides. "Then they try to exploit that one piece of information that you gave them."
To Protect yourself:
- File your tax return early to keep your info from being used by someone else
- Use a secured Wi-Fi or cellphone hot spot to transfer your information
- Use strong passwords, for example; I love my dog harry, and include lower and uppercase
- Use multi-factor authentication -- a second password like an IP personal identification number, which the IRS will provide
Bides said if there are any questions or suspicions before you make a decision call the the IRS.
"They will gladly provide the right information," he said.
The number to call the IRS is 800-536-0734 /800-829-1040.