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Missouri 4th Highest for ID Theft Complaints

Tax time increases the chance that Missourians will fall victim to a scam. (Veronica Carter)
Tax time increases the chance that Missourians will fall victim to a scam. (Veronica Carter)
February 22, 2016

ST. LOUIS – Missouri ranks fourth in the nation in identity-theft complaints, and the risk of thieves getting your personal information increases during tax season.

AARP has launched a campaign to educate people about protecting themselves from tax-related scams. Bob Juergens, Missouri state coordinator for the AARP Foundation's Tax Aide program, says one key is to make sure the person doing your taxes is reputable.

"Know who's doing your tax return," Juergens warns, "because some of these storefronts that set up, you can go in there and get things done, and they're going to be gone on April 16th – so if you have a problem, you'd have nobody to go to."

The Federal Trade Commission says people make themselves easy targets for identity theft by failing to lock their mailboxes, leaving important paperwork in an unlocked vehicle, and failing to properly destroy documents that contain personal information.

Juergens recommends mailing your completed income-tax return as early in the season as possible to prevent someone else from filing using your Social Security number. Shred your documents instead of just throwing them away, and don't give out your personal information unless you're sure it's for a legitimate reason.

"Be protective of it, because all that's required to file a fraudulent tax return in your name is a date of birth, a Social Security card and your name," he says. "If they have that information, they can make the rest of the tax return."

AARP is also warning about a tax-time scam that has hit Missouri. Someone calls pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service, saying you owe back taxes and demanding an immediate payment – even threatening jail time.

Don't fall for it, says Juergens. The IRS never contacts anyone over the telephone like that.

The AARP Foundation's Tax Aide program is the nation's largest free, tax preparation program staffed by trained, IRS-certified volunteers. Tax Aide sites can be located online.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MO