“Identity theft has been the top consumer complaint to the FTC for 13 consecutive years with tax identity theft showing an increasing share of the Commission’s identity theft complaints,” reported the FTC. “In 2010, tax identity theft accounted for just 15 percent of the FTC’s identity theft complaints from consumers, while in 2011 it made up 24 percent of the overall identity theft complaints. In 2012, tax identity theft accounted for more than 43 percent of the identity theft complaints, making it the largest category of identity theft complaints by a substantial margin.”
It’s therefore extremely important that you take every precaution and practice recommended security procedures while filing your taxes. Here are some tips that can help give you peace of mind as you begin working on preparing your taxes:
- Contact the IRS if you suspect your identity has been compromised: If somebody has used your Social Security number to get a job, the IRS will probably send you a notice saying that you failed to report a portion of your earnings. Contact the IRS as soon as possible so they can work with you to fix the problem. According to USA Today, the IRS has worked with victims to resolve over 200,000 cases of id theft since the start of 2013.
- Delete images of your W-2: If you need to take a picture of your W-2 form for a tax app, just be sure you delete the file afterward.
- Don’t file over public WiFi: Make sure you’re filing your tax returns on a personal computer over a private WiFi network. Using a public computer or a public WiFi network in a cafe or hotel will make you vulnerable to fraudsters waiting to hack into your information.
- Keep paperwork in a safe place: Don’t leave your tax paperwork in your car or on your kitchen counters where anybody could see and steal them. Instead, keep them locked in a personal safe whenever you aren’t actively using them.
- Never sign a blank tax return: A legitimate tax preparer will not ask you to sign a blank tax return, and you should never do so.
- The IRS will not ask for your information over email: Some cyber-criminals engage in phishing tactics meant to rob you of your Social Security number so they can claim your tax refund. The IRS will never initiate contact over the phone or through email or social media, so if you receive an email that says it’s from the IRS and requesting personal information, delete it immediately without opening the file. Do not, in any circumstance, provide your personal information or click on any link in the email.
No one can stop identity theft, but everyone can take some simple steps to enhance their personal security. Be safe as you file your taxes this year, and stay alert for signs of fraud.