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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The IRS is now accepting tax returns, but before you file, state officials are issuing warnings about the risk of tax fraud.

Since 2014, the Indiana Department of Revenue says it has prevented more than $110 million in fraudulent tax refund attempts. In 2016, the department’s tax fraud prevention program identified more than 5,500 customers whose identities were stolen.

Department commissioner Adam Krupp says so far, the state’s program has led to substantial decreases in fraudulent returns. According to department, there was $88 million in fraud attempts in 2014 and only $2 million in fraud attempts in 2017. But despite the improvement, Krupp warns there is still a risk of becoming a victim of fraud.

“Last year for example we talk about a classic story where one social security number was used 245 different times,” he said.

Krupp says the department advocates following these tips to help increase the chances you’re your information stays safe:

  • Protect financial documents. Shred documents not needed and keep ones that are needed locked in a secure place.
  • Do not give a business or organization your Social Security number.
  • Do not carry your Social Security card with you.
  • Check credit report every 12 months.
  • Protect personal computers by using firewalls, anti-spam/virus software, update security patches and change passwords for Internet accounts.
  • Do not give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you are sure you know whom you are dealing with.

Agencies like the BBB serving central Indiana say it’s also important to be on the lookout for telephone and email phishing scams, which are common ways thieves target unsuspecting victims.

Tim Maniscaslo, who is the agency’s president, says often thieves will try to trick victims into giving up Social Security numbers and other financial information by presenting themselves as IRS or other financial institution representatives. Many people, particularly the elderly, often fall for these scams. However, Maniscalo says the likelihood of legitimate organizations calling or emailing and requesting someone send them precious financial information is very low.

“If the IRS wants to get ahold of you, they’re going to send you a letter also they’re never going to ask you to pay over the phone,” Maniscalo said.

Maniscalo says if there is any doubt as to who you are speaking or emailing, always question the person (employee number, ask to speak to a supervisor, etc). If concerns persist, he recommends ending communication and following up with the agency the person claims to represent independently.

“People want your personal information, they want your financial information be very, very careful before giving that out make sure your absolutely certain who it’s going to and why they’re using it,” he said.

For more information on the Indiana Department of Revenues tax fraud program, you can click here. For more information on the BBB serving central Indiana, as well as information on current scams in your area, you can click here.