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(NECN) - Recent data breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus underscore how important protecting your identity is at all times, especially as tax season approaches.
Bentley University professor, author, lawyer and resident anti-scam expert Steven Weisman says identity theft is a big problem when it comes to income taxes.
"The Treasury Department said that despite the efforts of the IRS right now, they're projecting $21 billion in fraudulent returns will be paid by the IRS," he says.
Weisman says scammers get a hold of a Social Security number, make a phony W-2 and send it in before you do.
"That's why it's important to file early," he says. "Once they get it in, and here's kind of the interesting thing: The IRS doesn't match up the W-2s until August. When a W-2 is sent by an employer, it's sent to the Social Security Administration. They in turn won't even send it to the IRS until July and then the IRS won't get around to matching it until August - the refund is gone."
Learn more about avoiding scams at Scamicide.com.