Tax time is here and so are the tax time scams. Are you prepared to protect yourself and your identity?
Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week was created to help tax payers recognize the risks of identity theft when filing their taxes and give helpful tips to prevent it.
Tax identity theft happens when someone files a phony tax return using your personal information — like your Social Security number — to get a tax refund from the IRS. It also can happen when someone uses your Social Security number to get a job or claims your child as a dependent on a tax return. Tax identity theft has been the most common form of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for the past five years.
How do tax identity thieves get their hands on your personal information
- Someone goes through your trash or steals mail from your home or car.
- Imposters send phony emails that look like they’re from the IRS and ask for personal information.
- Employees at hospitals, nursing homes, and other businesses steal your information.
- Phony or dishonest tax preparers misuse their clients’ information or pass it along to identity thieves.
So what can you do? Here’s a few tips to help protect yourself against falling victim to tax identity theft:
- File your tax return early in the tax season, if you can, before identity thieves do.
- Use a secure internet connection if you file electronically. Don’t use unsecure, publicly available Wi-Fi hotspots at places like coffee shops or a hotel lobby.
- Mail your tax return directly from the post office.
- Shred copies of your tax return, drafts, or calculation sheets you no longer need.
- Respond to all mail from the IRS as soon as possible.
- Know the IRS won’t contact you by email, text, or social media. If the IRS needs information, it will first contact you by mail.
- Don’t give out your Social Security number (SSN) or Medicare number unless necessary. Ask why it’s needed, how it’s going to be used, and how it will be stored.
- Get recommendations and research a tax preparer thoroughly before you hand over personal information.
- If your SSN has been compromised, contact the IRS ID Theft Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490.
- Check your credit report at least once a year for free at annualcreditreport.com to make sure no other accounts have been opened in your name.
What happens if you do fall victim to tax identity theft?
Tax identity theft victims typically find out about the crime when they get a letter from the IRS saying that more than one tax return was filed in their name, or IRS records show they received wages from an employer they don’t know. If you get a letter like this, don’t panic. Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490. Visit IdentityTheft.gov, the federal government’s one-stop resource to help you report and recover from identity theft. You can report identity theft, get step-by-step advice, sample letters, and your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit. These resources will help you fix problems caused by the theft.