In 2012, more than 1.2 million taxpayers were affected by identity theft and an additional 1.6 million were affected in just the first six months of 2013, according to the IRS. Fraudsters are becoming savvier in their data collection methods and are trying to take advantage of the increased availability of personally identifiable information during tax season. Some of the latest scams used by fraudsters to obtain consumers' personal information include sending sophisticated phishing emails, illegitimate tax preparers stealing and selling clients' data on the black market, hackers monitoring data being transacted over public Wi-Fi, and thieves acting as casual passersby stealing mail from curbside mailboxes.
You can help protect yourself from Tax ID Theft with these tips:
- File your tax returns as early as possible, preventing identity thieves from filing before you.
- Thoroughly research a tax preparer and ask how they are going to keep your data protected before handing over your personal information.
- When sharing personal information with a tax preparer via email, use an encrypted file and email the password separately.
- Use a secured home network or your carrier's cellular service if using an online tax service.
- Make sure your computer is updated with the latest anti-virus software and store your tax return on an encrypted storage device.
- Get a temporary PO Box if you are planning to receive your tax return in the mail.
- The IRS will only contact you by mail – never by phone, email, text, or social media — should they need more information.
Check out our guide on Keeping Your Identity Safe During Tax Season for more information.