The Bluefield Daily Telegraph published this editorial on Feb. 4 regarding safe tax season practices:

With tax season now underway, so are a plethora of tax-related scams. That's why area residents are being asked to exercise vigilance this tax season against potential scams.

This includes protecting sensitive information like Social Security numbers, financial information, birthdates and addresses and other personal information that scammers could easily use to defraud taxpayers.

"Scammers are aware of tax filing deadlines and could be waiting to take advantage of your personal information," West Virginia Attorney General Morrisey said. "It's imperative that consumers be mindful of how they handle tax information and who processes tax-related documents on their behalf."

According to the attorney general's office, consumers can greatly reduce the risk of fraud by filing their return well before the April 15 deadline. This gives thieves less time to file a false return since IRS records would show a filed return in the consumer's name. Consumers also should use a secure internet connection and never file their return via publicly available Wi-Fi, Morrisey said.

The attorney general's office also recommends the following safeguards:

n Never carry a Social Security card, banking information or any other personally identifiable information in a wallet. Residents should instead keep such documents in a secure location.

n Cross shred documents. Identity thieves rummage through trash to find information.

n Be wary of emails that may look legitimate at first glance: check for questionable display names, email addresses, names and spelling.

n Use caution with any unsolicited phone call, text message, email or social media post as impostors will use various means to threaten consumers and steal their personal information.

Morrisey said unsuspecting victims of tax-related identity theft often receive a letter from the IRS saying it received multiple tax returns filed in the victim's name or indicate the taxpayer received wages from an employer he or she does not know.

Anyone who receives a letter from the IRS indicating potential impersonation should immediately call the agency's Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.

Consumers who believe they may be the victim of tax-related identity theft should contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Office at 1-800-368-8808 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.

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