This time of year, Miami-Dade's Accion Community Action Agency in Little Havana helps hundreds of people file their income taxes -- at no cost to families who make less than $55,000.
Julian Cantillo, who has relied on the service for three years, said he trusts the staff, saying they know what they're doing. During his recent visit, all his tax information was filled out in 15 minutes.
Cantillo and other South Floridians benefit from visiting agencies well-versed in preparing tax forms. But the IRS says people can do more to protect themselves this time of year, especially since the federal government has identified South Florida as having the highest rate of income tax identity theft.
About $280 million was stolen in income tax thefts in Miami alone in 2011 from nearly 75,000 returns.
The IRS has issued tips to help keep you and your identity safe:
- Do not carry your Social Security number with you.
- Be careful to whom you provide your Social Security information.
- Keep financial information in a safe location and shred it when you can.
- Check your credit report yearly.
- Protect your personal computers with firewalls, anti-spam and -virus software and don't forget to change your passwords every so often.
- And also important: File your taxes early if possible because it gives crooks less of a chance to get your money before you do.
Meanwhile, Darna Aybar-Guardia, with the Miami-Dade Community Action and Human Services Department, said every year, more people rely on their service.
"The community understands it's a free service the county provides,” she said. “And more and more they come to the center, they trust the staff that is trained by the IRS.”
For the community action agency's free-tax-filing service, click HERE for a list of locations across Miami-Dade.