Scammers and identity thieves have been gearing up for this time of year for a while now in hopes of stealing your refund before you ever get around to filing.

This specific form of identity theft was at one point responsible for billions of dollars per year in fraudulent payouts, as well as serious delays and headaches for both the Internal Revenue Service and the victims. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC)  want all consumers to understand the nature of this crime, as well as take action to reduce the chance of it happening to them. Tax identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal identifiable information to file a tax return in your name. Using falsified income and deduction amounts, they can reap a hefty payout and have it deposited onto an untraceable prepaid debit card. Once that happens, the victim’s legitimate return gets flagged as a duplicate return, causing serious delay in filing correctly and receiving any refunds that are owed.

Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week will take place from January 29th through February 2nd, and will feature a number of opportunities for the public to learn about the crime. There will also be great takeaways so participants can help spread the word to friends, family members, co-workers, and their communities.

Watch the Webinar Replay

One such event will be the webinar hosted by both organizations, which will take place on Monday, January 29th. This free event will be focused on tax identity theft, which includes how to protect yourself and your business.

You’ll also learn:

– Warning signs of tax identity theft as well as how tax identity theft happens

– Common scams related to taxes

– What to do if you become a victim

Tax #IDTheftChat on Twitter Thursday, February 1st, 2018

You’re also invited to join an exclusive tax-related  #IDTheftChat on Twitter. The FTC & ITRCwill discuss the importance of protecting yourself against tax-related identity theft happening on February 1st at 3pm ET / 12pm PT.

To join the conversation that day, simply search for the #IDTheftChat hashtag on Twitter, and be sure to add the #IDTheftChat hashtag to the end of all your comments or questions in order to be a part of the discussion.

One of the most important steps in thwarting this crime is filing as early as possible, basically beating a criminal to it. This may be especially important for consumers who know their PII has been illegally accessed in the past, such as in a data breach, previous identity theft issue, or other similar circumstance. For more questions about tax identity theft, read our tips here.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.