COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD)- With the W-2 tax form deadline quickly approaching, scammers know tax time is right around the corner.

And, according to the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs (SCDCA) and the South Carolina Department of Revenue (SCDOR), tax fraud was the number one way South Carolinians reported their identities being stolen in 2021.

The most common form of tax fraud happens like this: You go to file your taxes for the year and find that someone has already used your Social Security Number to file.

These tips can help protect refund and personal information this tax season:

Watch our for IRS and tax imposter scams

Scammers often pose as IRS or SCDOR employees to scare and trick you into disclosing personal information and/or sending them money. The following voicemail is an example of one you might receive from a fraudster:

Remember: The IRS will never call you about taxes without sending a mail notice first.

File early and online in safety

Identity thieves often use consumer information to file fraudulent tax returns and steal refunds before the individual consumer files, so you should try to file your tax returns as early as possible. The IRS and SCDOR begin accepting 2021 Individual Income Tax Returns on January 24, 2022.

If filing online, use anti-virus software on your computer and make sure the computer is connected to a secure internet server. Use strong passwords and enable two-factor authentication whenever possible. You should avoid using public Wi-Fi to file online.

Get an Identity Protection PIN

Take advantage of a free added layer of protection being offered by the IRS. Taxpayers who can verify their identities can opt-in to receive a unique six-digit ID Protection PIN that only the individual and the IRS know.

Use a legitimate tax preparer

Make sure your tax preparer is licensed, reputable, and has a Preparer Tax Identification Number from the IRS. Stay involved with the process, beware of empty promises, and never sign a blank return.

You may also qualify for free tax prep services provided by IRS-certified volunteers. Visit www.irs.gov or call (800) 906-9887 to check your eligibility.

Comply with IRS and SCDOR identity verifications

SCDOR has implemented additional safety measures to ensure scammers are not using your information to file a false return and steal your refund. Be on the lookout for a letter from SCDOR asking to you complete an identity verification after filing your return.

If you believe you are the victim of a security breach, scam, or identify theft:

  • Call (844) TELL DCA (835-5322)
  • Fill out an ID Theft Intake form by visiting www.consumer.sc.gov and clicking on ‘Report Identity Theft.’
  • Visit dor.sc.gov/taxfraud to report tax fraud to SCDOR