Each year tax season brings on an onset of identity theft and fraud. There are individuals who are filling fraudulent tax returns so they can claim your tax refund check. They are using stolen names and Social Security Numbers from tax payers to file tax returns. How are they able to do this? They are using check cashiers to cash these checks versus a bank to avoid close scrutiny. Tax payers who file extensions are more likely to run into this issue and don’t find out that their identity has been comprised until the time they go to file.
The internet has led to the biggest jump in identity theft making it more important than ever to be aware of the information you give others. Emails are one of the biggest ways that cyber criminals can trick you into giving up personal information like your Social Security Number, account numbers, and passwords.
The IRS is aware of the ongoing battle with identity theft and each year puts aggressive strategies of prevention in place. Although they are making headway in this fight, there are things that you can do to help protect yourself and avoid this from happening to you.
The IRS has 3 key pieces of advice to help avoid this from happening:
· Make sure that the security software is always on with firewall and anti-virus protections and that it does updates automatically. Always encrypt sensitive files such as tax records you store on your computer with passwords that only you would know. Avoid passwords like your street address, kid’s names, last name, etc.
· Phishing emails have become the biggest tool for identity theft. Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations such as your bank, credit card company and even the IRS. Before sending information that has been requested call your bank, credit card company or the IRS and confirm that they sent the email. It is important to note that the IRS will never call you making threats of jail or lawsuit nor will they send you unsolicited email suggesting you have a refund. If you get any of these report it to the IRS. Make sure that in any suspicious emails that you receive do not click on links or download attachments.
· Protect your personal data. Don’t routinely carry your Social Security card, and make sure your tax records are secure. Treat your personal information like you do your cash; don’t leave it lying around.
Just be aware of your accounts and who you are giving personal information to. Always use caution and monitor your accounts. Run your credit annually, review your Social Security records annually, and monitor your credit card accounts regularly to help keep you and your identity safe.