It is tax season; will you be a victim of tax identify theft? Identity theft is a very large and broad category. There are many forms of identity theft. There are the obvious: financial identity theft, medical identity theft, insurance identity theft, and synthetic identity theft. But there is also tax identity theft. Today we will uncover 7 key steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of tax identity theft this season.
What Is Tax Identity Theft?
Tax identity theft occurs when a thief uses a taxpayer’s stolen ID to file a fraudulent return and then claims the refund. This is as simple as stealing a social security number or a business Tin number and filing the claim very early in the season prior to the actual person filing.
Tax filing has become so convenient and simple but with that comes the worry of tax identity theft. Filing your taxes has become easier and easier each year and filing your 2018 taxes is no exception. Everything can be done paperless, including signing electronically and e-filing your returns. This simple process for you also creates a simple process for the criminals to replicate. Criminals love easy crimes and when people are soft targets. Be prepared and arm yourself with these tips and tricks.
How Do I Protect My Tax Identity?
- File as early as possible! Don’t let the criminal beat you to it. Also, apply for an electronic filling PIN with the IRS. This requires an extra step, but it provides some safety around how you file for your refund with the IRS. It may reduce the likelihood of someone filing with your information.
- Protect your computers with a firewall and be sure to have the most current antivirus software downloaded to your computer. This is a best practice to protect your information from being stolen or seen by an identity thief. Something as simple as optimizing your anti-virus software could be the one thing that makes you a harder target and causes a cyber criminal to second guess targeting you or not.
- Do not respond to emails or robo calls from people that you do not know or people imitating the IRS. The IRS will not make initial contact using email, text, calling or social media!!!! Do not fall for this common trap! The IRS will first attempt to contact you via letter through the regular mail (snail mail). Going to the IRS official website or calling the 800 number from their official website is the most effective way to contact them. Do not give out your personal information to someone that called you! Be sure you should always validate any contact you think you have gotten from them by calling the IRS directly.
- Always be mindful and diligent regarding your regular mail. This is a best practice anyone should have in place anyway, but especially during tax season as documents for filing such as W2 or other important documents will be mailed to your home you need get your mail daily. If you are traveling or will be on vacation, be sure to have someone you trust collect your mail for you until you return. Another great thing you can do for an extra added layer of protection is get a post office box at your local post office. You could redirect all your mail or choose to only have your most important documents forwarded to this P.O. Box. They are available for a nominal fee and adds another layer of protection.
- Do not give out your social security number without knowing why it is needed. This information should be guarded at all costs. You only get ONE social security number and you will not be given a new one if you fall victim to identity theft. DO NOT STORE THESE NUMBERS IN YOUR CELL PHONE! Too many people store their or their family members social security numbers in their phone. Cell phones are just as susceptible to identity thieves as computers.
- Never provide bank account information in an email or a text. This is a cyber security don’t. We have previously covered some cyber security do’s and don’ts here.
- Use a trusted tax preparer to prepare your taxes. Do not entrust just anyone to do this job. Maintain your records of conversation and documents with your trusted individual. If you choose to file yourself, make sure you are using a reliable method to do so and are keeping record of documents as well.
What Can I Do If Tax Identity Theft Happens To Me?
Contact the IRS directly at 800-908-4490. You will have to complete form 14039 to document that you have been a victim of tax identity theft. Keep record of all conversations and calls made around this. Be your own best advocate. Be sure to report the theft of your social security number to the social security administration. Check your credit reports and other reports to be sure they are accurate. Protecting your tax identity is a very large part of the puzzle when it comes to having solid security posture. Follow me as I uncover more pro(active) tips and tricks.