Tax tips: Avoiding scams and last-minute filing

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance offers free tax-prep help

SAN ANTONIO – Scammers are always lurking, especially during tax season. What can you do to protect yourself from tax-related identity theft?

First, you need to know what to look out for.

Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your stolen Social Security number to file a tax return.

Here are some warning signs:

  • More than one tax return was filed using your Social Security number.
  • You owe money on a year for which you did not file a tax return.
  • IRS records show you received income from an employer you never worked for.

If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, you should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at identitytheft.gov.

You should also contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit records. The bureaus are Eqifax, Experian and TransUnion.

If you know your Social Security number has been compromised, contact the IRS at IDverify.gov.

If you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, you'll want to continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return so you aren't penalized before the issue is resolved.

If you haven’t filed your tax return, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program offers free help to do so.

In 2015, VITA filed 34,000 tax returns. VITA offers free tax help to individuals and families in the low- to moderate-income range, which is generally $60,000 and below.

Volunteers will help you prepare your taxes. They can also help to clarify any financial questions you may have and make sure you claim your full refund.

VITA has a number of sites throughout the San Antonio area. Click here for a list of locations.

Some sites even offer express service, in which people can drop off their paperwork and pick it up later.

If you're planning on heading out to one of these sites, be sure to bring a valid photo ID, Social Security card or individual tax identification number, and if you’re filing jointly, your spouse must be present.