Pennsylvanians Encouraged to File Their Tax Returns Early to Avoid Falling Victim to Tax Fraud | State

Harrisburg – As tax filing season gets underway, the Department of Revenue is urging Pennsylvanians to file their taxes as soon as they can. Filing your returns early is one way to help taxpayers protect themselves against identity thieves and tax refund fraud.

“Tax-filing season is the perfect time for criminals to target Pennsylvanians with schemes designed to steal their personal information,” Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell said. “We want Pennsylvanians to be aware of these fraudulent tactics so they can take steps to protect themselves. It is important to know the warning signs so that you do not fall victim to these scams.

Filing fraudulent tax returns to steal refunds

Tax refund fraud often begins when cybercriminals steal personally identifiable information from a taxpayer or a tax professional hired to prepare a client’s tax returns. These scams can involve threatening phone calls, deceptive letters sent through the post office, and realistic phishing emails or text messages. Sometimes these fraudulent messages focus on the recipient’s tax returns and refunds.

Phishing schemes are designed to give the impression that the email or text is from a trusted source, such as a government agency. The messages are often configured to use malware to steal sensitive information, such as passwords, usernames, or personal financial information, such as a social security number.

Once criminals get their hands on the stolen information, they have been known to file fraudulent tax returns on behalf of the victims whose data was stolen. The criminal will request a tax refund as part of filing the fraudulent return, then take steps to divert the refund to a bank account they control.

The Department of Revenue encourages Pennsylvanians to keep the following tips in mind to guard against these deceptive scams:

  • Approach unusual attachments and links with caution: Website links or email attachments may contain malware that allows criminals to track recipient keystrokes. It’s a way to get passwords, social security numbers, credit card numbers, or other sensitive information.
  • Look for imposters: many times the criminals will impersonate a government entity or an official company. If you think you are being targeted by a mail, phone or email scammer, do not provide personal information or money until you are sure you are speaking to a legitimate representative. You should check the source’s official website and use the contact information there to ensure that you are speaking to the appropriate authority.
  • Protect your accounts using multi-factor authentication (MFA): Some accounts and services offer additional security by requiring two or more credentials to sign in to your account. Multi-factor authentication makes it harder for scammers to log into your accounts if they get your username and password.
  • Don’t fall for pressure tactics: The criminals behind these scams have been known to use pressure tactics, including threatening taxpayers with criminal prosecution if they don’t comply with their requests for information. Many scams have also involved criminals threatening the taxpayer with an arrest warrant or “blacklisting” their social security number.

Use myPATH to file your state tax return

The Department of Revenue encourages taxpayers to electronically file their Pennsylvania personal income tax returns with the department’s state-only filing system available at mypath.pa.gov.

myPATH is a free, easy-to-use option that allows most taxpayers to seamlessly file the Pennsylvania tax return (PA-40) and make income tax payments, as well as offering other services. The deadline to submit 2021 personal income tax returns is Monday, April 18, 2022.

Note: Taxpayers do not need to create a username or password to perform many functions in myPATH. This includes filing a PA-40 or paying, responding to service inquiries, and checking the status of a refund.

What to do if you are scammed

The Revenue Department reminds taxpayers that it has a Fraud Detection and Analysis Unit dedicated to assisting victims of identity theft and combating tax refund fraud.

If you are a victim of identity theft or discover that a fraudulent Pennsylvania personal tax return was filed using your identity, please contact the Fraud Detection and Analysis Unit by sending an e-mail. -email to RA-RVPITFRAUD@pa.gov.

For more information on how to protect yourself, visit Revenue’s Identity Theft Victim Assistance webpage. You can also find more information about online protection at PA.gov/Cybersecurity.

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