ARLINGTON -- Tax-return identity theft has plummeted over the past two years thanks to increased efforts by the IRS and the tax industry, but you should still be careful when filing.
Private wealth advisor Derrick Kinney says you should file early to avoid having a scammer beat you to it, shred all documents containing important information like your Social Security number and birth date (however you might want to hold onto your return for at least three years in case of an IRS audit), make sure if you use a third-party tax preparer that the person or company is legitimate, and never give out any personal information over a phone or computer as the IRS will only contact you by physical mail.
The latest trick thieves are trying to pull is phishing tax preparers. An email link, if clicked on, allows a scammer to collect client data, which is then used to file a return and the refund is deposited in the client's actual bank account, but the scammer then calls to say there was a mistake and it needs to be deposited in another account, thus giving the money to the scammer. Again, the IRS will never call you, so if this happens hang up and call the IRS!