Filing early can reduce tax refund fraud, NC Revenue Department says

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Monday is the first day the IRS and the state are accepting individual income tax returns.

That also means scammers will be back in business, as well.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein told CBS North Carolina people should shred any documents they do not need any more to protect their personal information.

“You need to safeguard your personal information,” said Stein. That’s how the thieves can make your life a mess with the IRS.”

Raleigh CPA Rob Davis said he gets questions from his clients about how they can avoid being the victim of identity theft when they file their taxes.

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“If they’ve been the victims of identity theft previously, this is just another step that they want to make sure they’re doing it securely,” he said.

The North Carolina Department of Revenue said filing early reduces the risk of tax refund fraud.

Federally, the IRS recommends avoiding any online financial transactions using unsecure public Wi-Fi.

Also, the IRS recommends using passwords that are strong and unique, as well as encrypting and using password-protection for any sensitive data.

Stein told CBS North Carolina to be wary if you get a phone call from the IRS.

The IRS will never call you to say you owe money.

“Everybody is scared of the IRS,” he said. “Nobody wants to go to jail. That is not the IRS. Those are criminals posing, in order to raise your fear so that you call them and you will wire them your hard-earned money.”

Davis said he hears about a dozen or so examples each year of phishing scams.

Bottom line, he said it’s all about security because you never know who could be the next victim.

“It’s fairly random,” said Davis. “It may be somebody who has had a history of refunds or it may be that there’s an identity theft from something else that’s happened to them previously.”

That could include anyone who has been the victim of a data breach.

Stein, a democrat, is working with Republican State Representative Jason Saine on legislation that would require companies to disclose more quickly if a data breach has happened.

The state revenue department told CBS North Carolina that, because of their enhanced identity theft protection measures, some refunds may take longer than normal.

Tax returns are due this year on Tuesday, April 17.

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