CHAMPAIGN, Ill., (WCIA) — Some tax preparers say scammers using fake W-2s are on the rise. Tax season started this week and you might be getting yours soon in the mail. Other people are creating their own, claiming to work for a company, making up numbers and faking an ID.

Yolanda Starks, an owner and tax preparer at Jackson Hewitt in Champaign, said this year is a bit unusual. They’re seeing more fake W-2s right now and earlier in the season.

Starks said it’s hard to point to one specific reason about why it’s happening more than ever. She believes it could be because of COVID-19 stimulus programs, lower refunds, or the economy.

Starks added that tax preparers are trained to look for issues. But, other people should be aware of identity theft, and take precautions themselves too.

“Make sure you’re keeping your social security numbers and birthdates under lock and key,” she said. “You also want to be careful with your tax preparer. You want to make sure you’re using a professional that takes your security very seriously.”

She said a lot of the forms they’ve seen at Jackson Hewitt have the correct workplace, but the money earned is forged.

For scammers, the consequences can be severe. It can lead to about $100,000 in penalties or jail time.