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Be aware of tax scams

As that time of year when Americans anxiously await their tax returns begins, federal and state officials are offering cautionary advice, particularly about protecting personal information.

With the right information, particularly a Social Security number, thieves can attempt to file false tax returns and take refunds, the Kentucky Department of Revenue warns.

Christy Kinney, Director of individual tax at the Kentucky Department of Revenue, gave a great piece of advice when she warned that identifying information should be treated as if were cash.

With this in mind, Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week is being observed Jan. 29 through Feb. 2.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Tax Identity Theft occurs when someone fraudulently uses a social security number to file taxes or get a job. The victim often doesn’t know this has happened until they attempt to file their taxes for the year. Typically, a message is provided stating that a return has already filed or a letter is received from the IRS stating that multiple returns were filed in a given year or that IRS records show you have wages from an employer you don’t know.

According to Equities.com, there was a 400 percent increase in tax-related phishing and malware attacks.

With these types of crimes on the rise, it is more important than ever to take precautionary measures to protect your identity and your well-deserved tax refund.

To avoid becoming the victim of such crimes: — File early. You will not only receive your refund earlier, but also limit fraudulent filings from scammers.

— Be aware of scams. Remember the IRS will never call or visit your home or tax-related inquiries. The IRS utilizes mail and email. Other forms of communication should be considered suspicious.

— Shred important documents.

— Use a secure private Wi-Fi network when e-filing.

— Beware of emails from Taxpayer Advocacy Panel, these are phishing scams.

— Regularly check your credit report for suspicious activity.

— Never give payment information over the phone.

For more information, visit irs.gov/newsroom/tax-scams-consumer-alerts.