Protect Yourself During Tax Season
At the beginning of each tax season, the IRS releases a list called the Dirty Dozen, featuring the top tax scams for the year. Identity theft makes a repeat appearance on the 2016 Dirty Dozen. In mid-February the IRS reported that there was a surge in phishing and malware incidents as the 2015 tax season began. Identity theft is a constantly evolving threat, and it is important to stay informed about the ways you can protect yourself.
Beware of Phishing
Thieves are becoming very shrewd, making phishing emails and calls that seem legitimate. An unexpected phone call from someone claiming to be an IRS agent is a scam. The IRS will not contact you by phone or email to make threats or request personal information.
Protect Your Personal Information
- Do not click on links or provide personal information requested by email, phone calls, or texts. If you discover a website that claims to be the IRS but does not begin with ‘www.irs.gov,’ forward the link to email@example.com.
- Do not provide your Social Security Number to a business unless it is required.
- Keep paper files in a locked location and digital files encrypted.
- When disposing of an old computer, be sure to wipe the hard drive clean.
- Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse.
- Use anti-virus and anti-spam software.
- Check your credit report annually.
- If you prepare your own tax return, use strong passwords for your tax software.
Victims of Identity Theft
Victims of any kind of identity theft should file a report with the Federal Trade Commission at www.identitytheft.gov. Also, it is important to contact one of the three major credit bureaus to add a fraud alert to your records.
Victims of tax-related identity theft need to take additional steps. If you try to e-file your return and learn that a return has already been filed, or if you receive a letter from the IRS indicating that a suspicious return was filed with your Social Security Number, you should take the following steps:
- If you receive an IRS letter, respond as soon as possible.
- If a fraudulent return was filed with your Social Security Number, you must file a paper return. Complete and attach IRS Form 14039, the Identity Theft Affidavit, with your paper return.
- Watch for a notice from the IRS with an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN). This six-digit number helps the IRS verify your identity to accept your return. Once you receive an IP PIN, you must use it to file your federal return. Note: If you are a resident of Florida, Georgia, or the District of Columbia, you cannot request to have an IP PIN issued at this time.
- Contact your state taxing authority to make sure your state tax return has not been compromised.
Identity theft remains a threat to taxpayers. Stay vigilant to protect your personal information during tax season! For more information data security and identity fraud, click here!