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Tips to avoid becoming a victim of tax return fraud

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Due to an increase in fraud, the IRS is delaying some refunds this year.

If you are one of the millions of people filing early and claiming either an earned income tax credit or an additional child tax credit you’re not going to get your money right away. This year, the IRS is holding on to those refunds until the end of February to make sure they give the money to you and not someone pretending to be you.

Many people and families with low incomes can file for the earned income tax credit and that can give them up to an extra $6,200 on their tax return. The additional child tax credit can give them an extra $1,000 in their pockets.

H&R Block agents say one in five of these tax credit payments are fraudulent. Scammers take your personal information such as your name, birth date and social security number, then use it to file a fake tax return so they can steal your refund. To combat this, the IRS has decided to delay refunds this year for those who file for these credits.

"As soon as you have your information, the earlier you file, the less likely it is for a tax identity thief to file on your behalf and commit text identity theft fraud,"  H&R Block enrolled agent DeAnn Gould-Lancaster said.

Agents say there are things you can do to avoid becoming the victim of fraud.Those tips include protect your personal information. Don’t keep your social security card in your wallet or purse and shred documents with your personal information on them. Also beware of scams. The IRS will never ask for personal information over the phone. Finally, make sure you know who is preparing your return and that you can trust them with your personal information.

If you are victimized, agents say go ahead and file like you normally would, but it will take even longer for you to get your refund.