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How to prevent identity theft and scams during tax season

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COLUMBUS, OH (Toledo News Now) -

In recognition of Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is warning consumers to protect their personal information and watch for scams. 

"At this time of year, consumers are at a higher risk for tax-related identity theft and scams," DeWine said. "Ohioans can help protect themselves by researching the reputations of tax preparers, using secure websites when filing taxes online, and filing tax returns as soon as possible."

In 2013, the Attorney General's Office received more than 100 complaints involving tax-related identity theft. This type of fraud can occur when an imposter obtains a taxpayer's personal information, files the taxpayer's return, and receives the taxpayer's refund.

Victims of tax-related identity theft should contact the IRS and/or the Ohio Department of Taxation. Identity theft victims also can seek assistance from the Ohio Attorney General's Identity Theft Unit.

In addition to identity theft, consumers should be aware of IRS imposter scams where con artists pretend to represent the IRS and contact consumers, claiming the consumers owe money for taxes. Scammers often contact potential victims via phone and request payment by wire transfer or prepaid money card.

To avoid tax-related identity theft and scams:

-Be skeptical of calls from "IRS representatives" who say there is a problem with your taxes.

-Don't respond to unexpected requests for personal information.

-File your taxes as soon as possible.

-Request that your employer send your W-2 electronically, rather than through the mail. Thieves may steal tax-related documents and personal information from mailboxes.

-Check a tax preparer's credentials. Seek information from the IRS and professional boards or associations. Be skeptical of tax preparers who promise significantly higher refunds than other organizations. Also review complaints on file with the Ohio Attorney General's Office or Better Business Bureau.

-Ask questions and review your tax return thoroughly before signing or filing anything with the IRS. Never sign blank documents. 

Do you believe you have been treated unfairly or suspect a scam? Contact the Ohio Attorney General's Office at 800-282-0515.

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