If you haven't already filed your taxes, the dreaded April 15 deadline is fast approaching, giving procrastinators a reason to start scrambling so that they will be able to reap the benefits of a tax refund and not have to pay Uncle Sam a penalty. While few people enjoy digging through a year's worth of paperwork to make sense of their finances, the benefits of organizing your taxes outweigh the hassle, as it can give you a solid picture of your current fiscal profile.
However, many individuals who wait until the last second to file their taxes expecting to get a big refund are often unpleasantly surprised to find that the money isn't there. This isn't an accounting error on their part, but actually the work of an identity thief.
Thieves may take advantage of your procrastination
While you were waiting to file, you may have found that a thief went ahead and filed on your behalf. However, instead of having that tax return deposited into your bank account where it belongs, these criminals take your government check and spend it themselves.
The way that these thieves are able to file is that they got a hold of your personal identification information — like your Social Security number and date of birth — and then filed a return, usually guessing on figures like salary, to make sure they get as much money as possible.
The opportunities for a thief to steal your identity are endless
There are many ways that these thieves can hijack your identity, whether they hacked onto the hard drive of your computer, intercepted documents with personal information from your mailbox or even by digging through your trash for files that you neglected to shred before throwing out.
If you find that your taxes have been filed already by a thief, you need to contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) immediately to alert them to the fraud and provide them with all of the factual tax information that you would have used on your filing. After identity theft happens, though, it takes a long time to clear up your good name and actually bring your identity thief to justice. In some cases, identity theft could go on for years before a victim is in the clear, and thieves often commit the crime without ever being captured.
When you start filing your taxes, also consider enrolling in an identity monitoring program so that you'll be alerted to certain activity that may end up being a sign of identity theft. That way you'll have a second set of eyes helping you watch over your credit report, and a chance to stay aware of issues that you may determine you need to correct.