The state Attorney General’s office is urging consumers to keep their personal information safe during the tax season.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and her department have kicked off Tax-related Identity Theft Awareness week with the goal of helping residents keep their private information protected from scammers. Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses stolen personal information, like a social security number, to file a phony tax return and claim the refund. The AG’s office is sharing tips all week to help prevent this from happening. They strongly urge residents not to give out their social security number unless there is good reason and you are confident you’re giving it to someone authorized to request it. If using a tax preparer, research them thoroughly before handing over personal information and never send that information in a text or email. File electronically over a secure connection, if possible, but if filing by mail, send your return directly from the post office. Communications Director for the AG’s office, Kelly Rossman-MicKinney adds that filing as early as possible is also important. She says that while employees get their W-2s by the end of January, employers have 2 months before they have to submit the same information to the IRS, creating a 2-month window for scammers to try and get your refund. Filing as soon as possible allows you to close that window yourself.

Rossman-McKinney also says that scammers most frequently target refunds for $4,000 or less.

Also, the IRS will never call taxpayers with threats of lawsuits or arrests, or ask you to wire money, pay with gift cards, or share credit card information over the phone. Rossman-McKinney says that often times, it’s the IRS that discovers when someone has been victimized by fraud, and that they will work with you to make good on your refund if it happens. If you suspect you’ve become the victim of a tax fraud, immediately contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 to begin the process.

For more information and tips for keeping your information safe, visit the AG’s website at (MK)