Some dread tax season like no other time of year. While services like TurboTax have undoubtedly made filing for a refund easier than ever, the process of sifting through all of your finances and potential deductibles accrued over the past 12 months can be annoying and stressful. Others love filing their taxes, if only for the promise of getting back a check for a few hundred or even thousand dollars from the government. Unfortunately, no one looks forward to tax season more than identity thieves. Over just the last few years, identity theft perpetrators have turned the span of January to April into one of the worst seasons for fraud.
As employees across the country begin receiving their W-2s, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is once again warning Americans about the dangers of tax season id theft. While the IRS has stepped up its efforts to curtail this crime — stopping 19 million suspicious-looking tax returns from 2010-2014, tantamount to $63 billion in potentially stolen refunds, according to CNN — millions more Americans continue to fall victim to this wave of fraud, not even realizing it until they’ve been notified that someone else has already filed their taxes and obtained their refund.
To that end, the IRS has supplied these recommendations for how you can help protect yourself from identity theft this tax season:
- Compare your credit reports: Checking your credit reports regularly can help you stay ahead of any potentially fraudulent activity happening on your credit file. The longer credit fraud occurs, the more havoc it can wreak. Staying aware by looking over your credit reports is key to minimizing any damage.
- Don’t carry sensitive information with you: Social Security cards, W-2 forms and any document with your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) are identity theft gold. Carrying these forms around with you leaves you open to the risk of having them stolen or lost, and ending up in the wrong hands. Leave these documents at home instead, out of plain sight, locked safely away from prying eyes.
- Double-check who you’re giving personal information to: Some may receive emails or calls from people purporting to be from the IRS, asking for your Social Security Number or some other valuable piece of personal data. The IRS will never contact you in this way for information, so make sure to never respond to them and report the incident to the IRS.
- File early: The sooner you file your tax return, the less of an opportunity thieves have to do it for you.
- Safeguard your computer: It should come as no surprise that many identity thieves double as hackers. Ensuring that your computer is up-to-date on its firewall, anti-virus and anti-malware protection is essential for minimizing your risk of becoming a cyberattack victim. Make sure that your online accounts are all set up with their own unique passwords too. That way, in the event that a hacker gets their hands on the password to your Facebook profile, they won’t suddenly have access to your email and bank account too. Use a password manager app to help you keep track of these many passwords secure, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting them or writing them down on an easily stolen slip of paper.
While we can’t protect your tax return or stop tax fraud in your name, we can help you keep a watchful eye over your identity and help you guard against other types of identity fraud. Sign up for Privacy Now today for a personalized approach to identity theft protection.