Houston, TX – Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week aims to warn the public about tax ID thieves and IRS impostors. Tax identity theft occurs when someone uses your Social Security Number (SSN) to file a phony return and claim your refund. IRS impostors are scammers who pretend they are calling from the IRS claiming you owe taxes and demand immediate payment. They use scare tactics, often threatening jail time or other frightening consequences.

The IRS will never call attempting to collect taxes. Do not give anyone claiming to be the IRS financial information over the phone. If you send money, it is gone.

You can fight identity thieves by:

  • Protecting your SSN throughout the year. Don’t give it out unless there is a good reason and you are sure who you are giving it to;
  • File your tax return as early in the tax season as possible;
  • Use a secure internet connection if you file electronically, or mail your tax return directly from the post office;
  • Research your tax preparer thoroughly before you hand over personal information; and
  • Check your credit report at least once a year for free at annualcreditreport.com. Make sure no one has opened a new account in your name.

Created in 1975, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is the federal government’s program for helping working Americans. The EITC is a refundable income tax credit for low-to-moderate-income workers intended to offset the burden of social security taxes.

Regrettably, only 80% of qualifying taxpayers claim the credit each year. EITC Awareness Day is intended to make more working families aware of the credit. The OCC encourages banks and savings associations to work with their communities to educate the public about the EITC and free tax assistance programs.

IRS funded VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) sites offer free tax help to people who generally make $56,000 or less, persons with disabilities and limited English speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals. Click here to find a VITA site near you.

This year, Lone Star Legal Aid joins in all things tax awareness by sharing information about EITC eligibility and how to safely go about navigating the tax season. Karyna Lopez, LSLA’s Low-income Tax Clinic Director, will talk all things taxes on FM 90.1 KPFT’s The People’s News on Friday, January 24, 2020, at 2 p.m.

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media contact: Clarissa Ayala, cayala@lonestarlegal.org.