ALBANY, GA (WALB) - With tax season quickly approaching, there’s several things you can do to avoid becoming a victim of tax fraud.
The Federal Trade Commission ranks Georgia second in the nation for fraud, which is why it’s important to be vigilant when it comes to filing your taxes this year.
Especially with recent data breaches where consumer information was hacked and left vulnerable.
Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards said a majority of the tax fraud that happens comes from a “so called” preparer using false information for an inflated refund, claiming dependents that are not yours to claim or from stealing someone’s identity to file their taxes without them knowing.
“You need to be very careful in terms of if someone says that I can get this for you in terms of getting you extra money from your taxes by using inflated or false information you could be subject to a felony penalty,” Edwards said.
Natasha Mayberry with Mayberry Tax and Loans said it’s very important to keep your documents safe — especially your social security number.
Mayberry also said before you go to a tax preparer, you should do your research by checking to see if the preparer is registered on the IRS website.
“Do not go to 10 different tax offices trying to get the biggest quote. I am positive when you leave probably the fifth shop, someone has already filed your taxes without your consent,” Mayberry said.
Someone preparing taxes who isn't registered, isn’t held to the same standard as those who are, which can leave you and your identity vulnerable.
Mayberry pointed out they can take your money, close shop and not have to worry about penalties — unless they get caught.
“If you keep seeing pop up shops, do not go to them because they’re nine times out of 10 when April 16th gets here, they’re gone,” she added.
Edwards said these crimes can be prosecuted on the state and federal levels. These type of cases have even been prosecuted in Dougherty County.
“The money that you might get back is not going to be worth the penalty and jail time that you could face because in addition to jail time, there’s fines and penalties that’s a part of the sentence as well,” Edwards said.
Edwards added: "It doesn’t matter if you do it by paper or on the computer, if you use false information to try and get a tax refund that’s inflated or your not entitled to at all that’s where people get in trouble with this type of situation.”
If you feel that you’ve been a victim of fraud, you should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.