Tax Related Identity Theft
Every year, identity thieves are ramping up their operations around tax season in order to steal tax refunds. Tax related identity theft has been growing, along with identity theft in general, in large percentages for many years. A persons Social Security Number (SSN) is the key to the fraud, and vulnerable people may not know until it is too late. An identity thief could have stolen a SSN months, or even years in the past, only to use it this year for tax related identity theft. The victim of the tax fraud will often not know until it is too late.
One of the most common ways an identity thief can capture your SSN and personal information, is through phishing. Phishing is a scam intended to trick you into revealing your SSN and/or personal information. These phishing scams typically come in the form of a fraudulent email, or even a phone call, where the identity thief will disguise themselves as an IRS official requesting your personal information. Remember, the IRS will never contact you via email, so make sure to immediately delete any IRS scams that appear in your email inbox. If you receive a suspicious phone call from the IRS, it is in your best interest to confirm the IRS employee’s identity by calling the official IRS hotline at 1-800-829-1040.
Even when practicing good personal information security, there is still a chance you could become victim of tax related identity theft. Some indications that you have become victim of tax related identity theft could be a letter (not an email) from the IRS informing you of a problem, or possibly a notification of a completed tax return. You may also find out if you file your return later in the tax season, only to find out that an identity thief has already filed a return using your SSN! If you find out that you have become a victim of tax related identity theft, it is important to contact the IRS immediately. The phone number for the “IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit” is 1-800-908-4490.
Since your tax refund is based on your Social Security Number (SSN) and personal information, it is important now more than ever, to be sure you are filing your returns on time as well as securing your personal information. Securing your personal information is a very broad topic and could be a large article all on its own. We have put together a number of common tips below that will help keep your SSN and personal information safe that applies to both tax related identity theft and ID theft in general.
- File your tax returns yourself, or through a trusted accountant or tax return agency.
- File your tax returns on time, do not delay!
- Regularly check your credit report for irregular activity.
- Enable fraud alerts with your credit and banking institutions.
- Do not carry your SSN card on you.
- Do not leave your wallet/purse vulnerable in unlocked cars, or desks at work.
- Do not give out personal information or your SSN to suspicious callers, or anyone that does not have a legitimate need to know.
- Never click on any links or open attachments in suspicious emails.
- Use different passwords for banking and credit institutions than you do for social networks, online stores, etc.
- Use unique and secure passwords, including numbers, upper and lower case letters, and special characters. Change them regularly!
- Keep your computers and electronic devices updated with current patches and security updates.