Missourians may be at risk for tax fraud

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COLUMBIA – Local tax sites are warning against higher amounts of fraud as Tax Day approaches.

Tax fraud scams are higher this time of year nationwide, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

“Fraud has become easier with electronic filing,” said Jere DeVilbiss, site manager of a local AARP tax-aide program.

So far in 2016, the AARP tax-aide program at the Missouri United Methodist Church has already caught seven incidents of fraud. The program offers free tax help for any individuals and requires photo ID and an official document that verifies a taxpayer’s real identity.

“Already this year we have had returns rejected because the Social Security had been used on a prior return already,” DeVilbiss said.

In 2015, the Missouri Department of Revenue stopped over $85.5 million in fraudulent tax refunds. The number could increase in 2016.

While the program helps to stop fraudulent behavior, DeVilbiss said customers should make sure they aren’t falling into the trap of being the next fraud victim by shredding any personal information.

“I do a lot of online shopping, and you know you give your information out over and over and over again, and it is scary,” said Shannon Ellington, a first-time user of the AARP tax-aid site.

Ellington said she was only aware of online scams before finding out about tax fraud.

"I just found out that tax scams are on the rise, and that's part of the reason why I chose this program," Ellington said.

Scam artists have claimed they are from the IRS, a tax company or a state revenue department. This could be done by phone, email or through letters, according to the IRS.

The AARP tax-aide program runs through April 18.