Here’s how to beat identity thieves to the punch as tax filing season gets underway

IRS will begin processing tax returns Monday January 27

Phony calls and emails are just some of the many methods thieves use to steal people's identities and file tax claims.

SAN ANTONIO – Phony calls and emails are just some of the many methods thieves use to steal people’s identities and file tax claims.

Tax adviser Norma Cox says people can beat thieves by filing their taxes early.

“Whether you owe or whether you’re expecting a refund, I think one of the best practices is to file early so that you can avoid being part of the identity theft or a scam problem," Cox said.

Here’s what you should bring with you when you file your taxes

It can also help you get ahead of any potential problems before the April 15 deadline.

If you get a call, letter or concerning email, don’t confirm any information over the phone with a stranger. Instead, go to the Internal Revenue Service website to look for the information or a phone number to reach the agency directly.

If you file your own returns, be careful of what you click on, as you could expose yourself to ransomware, which is when internet thieves hold your information hostage until you pay a ransom.

You should also protect your dependents’ information. Cox said many parents are finding out their children have already been claimed by someone else.

“I think a lot of the times we see that the children become an identity. Also, like, somebody else would have claimed them. But the parents definitely know that their children have not, you know, of course, filed their tax return,” Cox said.

The IRS offers Identity Protection PINs to add an extra layer of protection for those filing tax returns. You can request one, but you will need it every year to be able to process your return.

You can also request a transcript from the IRS to track any activity linked to your Social Security number.

The IRS warns about several scams in its “Dirty Dozen" list, including people posing as fake tax preparers or “ghost” preparers.

A ghost preparer is someone who does not sign a tax return they prepare.

Cox said it’s always best to go with a company or person you know and trust.

"They’re more familiar with who you are and some of the things that you filed in the past, " she said.

Even if your filing process goes smoothly, remember thieves are watching your mailbox for that return, so make sure you track your refund.

About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.