Taxes are inevitable. As the saying goes, taxes are literally one of the two guarantees we can always count on in life. Unfortunately, what we can also count on are ill-willed identity thieves eagerly awaiting the opportunity to take advantage of all the sensitive data passed around during tax season.
Identity thieves love tax season for a variety of reasons — here are just a few:
- Sensitive documents will be exchanged, sent, and shared between employers, employees, and tax preparers.
- They know large amounts of money will be moving across accounts, especially online.
- Scams are easy to pull off during this busy time - people are quick to react to mail (or email) from the IRS because they want to get their returns. This gives fraudsters the opportunity to act maliciously.
Tax filing is already a complicated process and security is just another risk filers have to consider, not the least of which is choosing the right tax preparer. The good news is there are several important steps consumers can take to help keep their data safe.
Top Tips for a Safe & Secure Tax Season:
- Be suspicious of any calls or emails purporting to be from the IRS, no matter what the issue. For example, some scams claim that someone else has already filed tax returns in your name or with your SSN. The IRS will always write to you first, will rarely call, and will never email you.
- Never confirm your SSN or bank account details by email or over the phone unless you are the one placing the call.
- If you plan to use an online tax preparation service, make sure you stick with a reputable one that has adequate security measures in place. And be careful when typing in the URL or web address of an online service in case you misspell the name and end up on a fraudulent site that looks like the real one.
- If you plan to use online tax preparation software and intend to keep a copy of your return on your computer, you should immediately rename your return with a different file extension. It is also highly recommended you use a USB external drive to save your information instead of storing it directly on your computer.
- Make sure your computer is free of malware like computer viruses and spyware that can steal a copy of your SSN or bank account password.
- Choose your tax preparer carefully and don't be afraid to ask them important security questions, such as how your information is protected at their offices during and after preparation, how long they will keep a copy of your tax return, and whether they conduct background checks on their employees.
- If you owe money to the IRS, try to pay online through their system. If you have to pay by check, spell out the name "Internal Revenue Service" because it's harder to forge than the letters IRS.
- If you make copies of your return on a photocopying machine, be aware that many machines keep a copy of your pages in short term memory! Using photocopiers in public locations is not recommended.
- Don't forget to shred any unnecessary documents or copies when tax season is over. Dumpster divers will be on the prowl to get your banking account details and SSNs.
- Use a credit and public record monitoring service. Services like Identity Guard® provide identity and credit protection, including, three credit scores, credit monitoring, credit report updates, ID monitoring with alerts, SSN and address monitoring, and more.
Learn more about identity theft protection.