Experts: File taxes early to avoid losing your identity and refund

AARP Tax Aide will be offered in Bay and Jackson Counties to help with 2019 taxes. (MGN Photo)

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Experts say to file your taxes early to avoid losing your identity and refund.

Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the National Identity Theft Resource Center, says it's important to file your taxes early.

"We really have to rely on the IRS and our state tax authorities to protect our information and how robust fraud analytics (are). But, one of the things consumers can do proactively is file first," she continues. "We always say this, file first… beat the crooks."

Denise Groene, state director of the Better Business Bureau, says it's easy for a thief to steal your identity if you're not careful.

"We have seen cases of victim identity theft related to taxes, so really to file your taxes, all you need is a name, a social (security number), and a birth-date. So, if somebody has your information, they could easily go ahead and file taxes acting as if they're you," says Groene.

Both Velasquez and Groene offer advice, saying to make sure you ask questions to whomever will prepare your taxes.

Groene and Velasquez say there are several questions you should ask before trusting a tax preparer: Are they open year round? Is there an audit? Or, if the IRS has questions after you file, how are you going to be able to get a hold of them? Are they here, or are they just seasonal?
How are you protecting my data? How are you safeguarding it?

Velasquez says the first step for anyone to file a false tax return in your name is access to your data.

"So start early in those conversations and thinking about how you keep your data safe," she says.

Both say to make sure you keep track of you W-2 and 1099 forms because each are like gold to a thief trying to steal your identity and refund.