Elkhart County lawmakers: Be aware of tax season scams

Posted by: Allison Vanatsky  | Wednesday, March 10, 2021 2:00 pm

STATEHOUSE (March 10, 2021) – As taxpayers continue to file their 2020 tax returns, local lawmakers are urging Hoosiers to be on the lookout for identity thieves and scammers.

 According to the Federal Trade Commission, COVID-19 led to a 225% increase in the number of identity theft complaints from 2019 to 2020, raising the total to 89,390. The FTC also received more than 2.2 million reports of fraud and nearly $3.3 billion in losses in 2020.

 "Disclosing your personal information over the phone or through an email can be risky, and it's important to be aware that there are people who want to take advantage of you," said State Rep. Joanna King (R-Middlebury). "Scammers are out there, so you have to know the signs and be able to protect yourself."

 The Internal Revenue Service reports scammers use mail, telephone or email to deceive individuals, businesses, and payroll and tax professionals. According to the IRS, the bureau does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. The IRS is reminding the public to avoid scams including unethical ghost tax return preparers who do not sign tax returns they prepare, emails or text messages asking for personal and financial information, and imposters who call taxpayers claiming to be IRS employees using fake names and identification badge numbers.

 "Criminals are taking advantage of the pandemic and preying on our most vulnerable populations, especially older Hoosiers," said State Rep. Doug Miller (R-Elkhart). "If someone is asking for your financial information or other personal information, stop immediately and get in touch with the authorities."

 To avoid falling victim to tax-related scams and identity theft, Miller said to follow these tips provided by the FTC:

  • Protect Social Security Numbers throughout the year. Do not give it out unless there is a good reason and you are sure of who you are giving it to;
  • File tax returns as early in the tax season as possible;
  • Use a secure internet connection if filing electronically or mail tax returns directly from the post office;
  • Research a tax preparer thoroughly before handing over personal information;
  • Check credit reports at least once a year for free at annualcreditreport.com. Make sure no one has opened a new account in your name;
  • Do not give out sensitive information over the phone. When in doubt, hang up; and
  • Never click on or forward links in unsolicited text or email messages.

 State Rep. Tim Wesco (R-Osceola) said those who believe they are a victim of a scam need to contact local law enforcement immediately. Scams should be reported to the Indiana Attorney General’s office by visiting indianaconsumer.com, and complaints should be filed with Federal Trade commission at ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.

 "If you think you have been scammed, it is vital you seek assistance immediately," Wesco said. "Calling the authorities as soon as you can lessens the chance of scammers being able to steal your identity and make the situation even more difficult."

 The federal tax filing deadline this year is April 15. To find a reputable preparer, visit IRS.gov.

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State Rep. Joanna King (R-Middlebury) represents House District

49, which includes the eastern portion of Elkhart County.

Click here to download a high-resolution photo.

 State Rep. Doug Miller (R-Elkhart) represents House District 48,

which includes portions of Elkhart County.

Click here to download a high-resolution photo.

 State Rep. Tim Wesco (R-Osceola) represents House District 21,

which includes portions of Elkhart and St. Joseph counties.

Click here to download a high-resolution photo.