HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - It is important you protect your identity during tax season as sensitive information is being distributed.
Jessica Bowman talked safety tips with the Better Business Bureau.
“You give your identity away, it takes five minutes. It might take you five or six months to get it all cleared up,” said John O’Hara, CEO for Better Business Bureau Serving Mississippi.
Your identity can be stolen. Right now is prime time for criminals to prey on victims by claiming to be representatives from the Internal Revenue Service.
“With that being said, there have been an increase in the number of tax-related scams," O’Hara said. "Emails where people think they are getting contacted by the IRS. Phone calls where the IRS says, ‘Hey, we need you to verify information or there was a problem with your return from last year.’”
O’Hara said with your personal information, corrupt impersonators can steal your identity to open up lines of credit and even take out loans in your name, in a matter of days.
“The problem we have with people is they will ask for information and they will hand their identity right over," O’Hara said. "They will say, ‘I need you to verify your information. What is your name, your birth date, your social security number and what are your dependents social security numbers?’ We’ve had people who have hung up the phone and called us and said, ‘I just gave somebody all my information, please tell me that was the IRS.’ Unfortunately, it’s not.”
So, it’s important to protect yourself and your future.
“So people need to realize that is not how the IRS does business," O’Hara said. "They use the U.S. post mail to send you something and they would correspond with you via telephone, but you would be calling them.”
O'Hara said it's also critical you shred any tax documents with your personal information.
Mark your calendar, March 8 the Attorney General’s office is hosting a free community shred day in Hattiesburg. The event will be happening from 8 a.m. until noon at the Highway 98 Walmart.
O’Hara said this is a great opportunity to get rid of the papers you no longer need.