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As Data Privacy Day Approaches, Attorney General DeWine Warns of Tax-Related Identity Theft


(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – In observance of Data Privacy Day on Jan. 28, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is encouraging consumers to protect their personal information to avoid tax-related fraud and identity theft. Recent reports suggest that criminals are stealing personal information from legitimate taxpayers to obtain fraudulent tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

"Helping Ohio consumers with information to help protect their identities and hard-earned dollars is a priority of the Attorney General's Office," said Attorney General DeWine. "We want to help consumers be aware of the necessary precautions to file taxes securely and keep their personal information safe."

In order to receive fraudulent refunds, criminals are stealing legitimate Social Security numbers and names to fill out fake W-2 (wages) and Schedule C (business tax) forms. Then, they either alter the direct deposit account or provide a pre-paid debit card number to receive the refund. Because the IRS does not verify W-2 information prior to issuing refunds, criminals are able to cheat consumers out of their tax refunds. In most cases, victims are not aware of the fraud until they attempt to file their tax returns themselves.

In other cases, criminals target potential victims by claiming to be legitimate "tax preparers." The consumer reveals personal information and authorizes the criminal to prepare his or her taxes. In some cases, the criminal will file false expenses, deductions, or bogus credits in order to receive a larger refund. In addition, the criminal may change the deposit information. The unsuspecting consumer then signs and submits the dishonest tax return. The criminal disappears with the refund, and the consumer is responsible for any fraudulent information filed with the IRS.

To avoid identity theft and tax return fraud:

  • File your taxes as soon as possible.
  • When filing online, make sure that the website is secure (the address should begin with "https").
  • Avoid using "tax preparers" who promise significantly higher refunds than other organizations.
  • Ensure that the tax preparer holds the appropriate credentials to review your taxes.
  • Check the tax preparer's reputation with the Ohio Attorney General and Better Business Bureau.
  • Never sign a blank tax form.
  • Ask questions and review your tax return thoroughly before signing and filing anything with the IRS.
  • Check your mail frequently; thieves may steal tax-related documents and personal information from mailboxes.

The Ohio Attorney General's Consumer Protection Section has created an Identity Theft Unit to help victims rectify the effects of identity theft. The unit currently offers two programs for victims: traditional assistance and self-help assistance.

Consumers who believe they are a victim of identity theft should file a notification with the Ohio Attorney General's Identity Theft Unit at or 800-282-0515.

Media Contacts:

Dan Tierney: 614-466-3840
Mark Moretti: 614-466-3840

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