It’s tax preparation time, and while you may be looking forward to a refund from Uncle Sam, some unscrupulous character may be planning the same thing – by using your identity. But luckily there are some things you can do to help thwart this type of theft.
The Federal Trade Commission and other central agencies are urging individuals to file their taxes as soon as possible, and for good reason. False tax claims have been steadily rising over the past few years, and those who wait until the last minute to hand in their tax returns are the most at risk. Because the IRS only accepts one tax return per Social Security number, if a thief manages to get their hands on your personal information, they could beat you to a refund that’s rightfully yours.
Here are some additional tax tips to help safeguard your identity and protect your wallet this tax season:
Criminals will try every trick they can think of to get their hands on your hard-earned tax refund, but by being vigilant about your online safety and filing your tax return as early as possible, you can help hinder their efforts. We hope these tax tips can help prevent you from becoming a victim of tax refund fraud.
- Only share your Social Security number when it's absolutely necessary. And never carry your Social Security card around with you, or keep your Social Security number written on a piece of paper in your wallet or purse. You also shouldn’t store it anywhere on your cell phone or computer.
- Only file your tax return via a secure website. Secure sites will have URLs that begin with “https://”, and they also appear with a padlock symbol in the address bar of your web browser.
- Remember to shred all paper documents containing personal data, such as bank account information or Social Security numbers. Avoid throwing these types of sensitive documents in the trash, where they could be dug up by criminals.
- Remember that the IRS will never email or call you concerning tax issues. If you receive an email or phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, never wire them money or provide them with your credit card, debit card, or bank account information. If the IRS really does need to get in contact with you, or request payment from you, they will do so via regular postal mail.
- If you use a tax preparer to file your return, ensure their legitimacy. Remember that tax preparers must sign your return with their IRS Preparer Identification Number. This identification system is in place to help protect you from tax fraud and identity theft.
- Be cautious of questionable emails, social media posts, and websites. Never provide your personal or financial information in response to an unsolicited email or a link you followed. Chances are, there’s a criminal on the other end attempting to fool you into giving up your sensitive info. It’s also a good idea to delete emails from unknown parties, especially those with attachments, as they could contain viruses or malware.
- Ensure that your computer and mobile devices have the most up-to-date security software, web browsers, and operating systems. Doing so will help to protect your devices from viruses and malware that could potentially steal your sensitive information.
- Always use the strongest, most complex passwords possible, and enable enhanced login security (like one-time verification codes, security questions, and device recognition) whenever it’s available.
- Remember not to conduct any banking business or access or share any confidential information via a public internet connection. Public Wi-Fi networks are not secure, and they could allow criminals to intercept your sensitive personal or financial information.