The April 15 tax filing deadline is less than three months away, but experts are telling people to file their taxes as soon as possible.
According to the latest numbers from the Federal Trade Commission, Florida leads the nation in identity theft, and that information can be used to commit tax fraud.
Certified Public Accountant Mark Patrick says by filing early, you lower the chance of a criminal stealing your information and filing a tax return before you do. Patrick, along with Attorney General Pam Bondi, is among many experts reminding people of how to stay safe when filing taxes.
Patrick says if you’re having your taxes done for you, make sure to check the credentials of the tax preparer. Also, do not provide your Social Security number unless it's required, and never respond to an e-mail asking for information related to tax refunds.
“Some people actually get emailed from an ID that looks like the IRS. The IRS will never send an email about your tax info, they will always call or send it in writing,” Patrick said.
Patrick says whether filing your taxes on your own online or having a professional do it, always get expert advice.
“Anybody that has any question, any doubt about what they need to do, they need to get advice and you will have trouble doing that with a website," Patrick said. "You do need to talk to a professional and at least get advice, whether they prepare it or not.”
Patrick says the closer it gets to the April 15 deadline, the busier tax preparers will be, so it's best to get started now.
If someone does become a victim to tax fraud or falls for a scam, Patrick says to immediately contact the IRS and explain to them exactly what happened. That person's Social Security number will then be flagged from now on, and when filing taxes in the future, that person will be required to enter a PIN number given to them by the IRS.