North Central News

Protect your identity during busy tax season

The AARP Fraud Watch Network has launched an education effort to help people protect themselves from tax scams, releasing a new video, a tip sheet and encouraging people to take advantage of AARP’s free tax preparation services.

Many taxpayers are putting themselves at greater risk of tax identity theft, according to a recent national study released by the AARP Fraud Watch Network in conjunction with the education campaign to help prevent scammers from stealing Arizonans hard-earned money.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Arizona ranks seventh in the nation in the number of I.D. theft complaints reported. Scammers can electronically file a tax return under someone else’s name to collect their tax refund by using their birth date and Social Security number. Many taxpayers make their personal information easy pickings by:
• Failing to lock their mailbox: Almost six in 10 (59 percent) Americans do not regularly lock their mailbox, which leaves them open to a criminal stealing bills, tax forms and other documents that contain personal information.
• Leaving valuables exposed: Over half (54 percent) of Americans have left at least one valuable personal item in their car in the last week (e.g., a purse/wallet, paystub, laptop) that could be used to steal their identity.
• Failing to destroy personal information: More than one in five (21 percent) Americans say they never shred any of their personal documents that could be used to steal their identity.

If you want to help keep your identity safe from potential scammers, don’t give out personal information unless you know who’s asking for it and why they need it. Also, regularly shred personal and financial documents.

Arizonans are also encouraged to visit www.aarp.org/taxaide (888-227-7669) for information about AARP Foundation Tax Aide, the nation’s largest free, volunteer-run tax preparation program. Each tax season, Tax Aide helps millions of low- to moderate-income taxpayers—especially those 60 and older—get the credits and deductions they deserve.

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