Every year, tax season presents a seasonal opportunity for criminals seeking monetary gain from identity theft. There are many ways that cyber criminals may try to obtain personal information, but the end goal is to file a falsified tax return in the taxpayer’s name and claim a tax refund. The scheme may not be discovered until the taxpayer attempts to file a legitimate tax return, by which time the criminal has moved on.
Clearing up issues related to identity theft and fraudulent tax returns can be messy and significantly delay any tax refund you may be owed. It pays to protect your identity now. Here’s how to help avoid tax identity theft in the year to come.
Be first to file your taxes
By now, you should have already filed for your 2021 taxes unless you filed for an extension for an October 15, 2021 deadline. Regardless of when you filed, one thing is for certain. There will always be taxes and preparing now for 2022 will only work in your favor.
Once you’ve filed your tax return to the IRS with your Social Security number (SSN), criminals will be unable to file under your name, which is why it’s important to file quickly. The earlier you file your tax return, the less time criminals will have to file a fraudulent return in your name.
To avoid delays in processing, the IRS has recommended against filing paper returns whenever possible, and to request for a direct deposit of your refund into your bank.
Be aware of scare tactics
If you receive any unexpected communications claiming to be from the IRS either by phone or mail, or other official organization, don’t assume they are real. Criminals impersonate legitimate organizations request information including your name, birth date, address, employer and SSN. Don’t open any unsolicited email attachments, click any links or provide any information without verifying the source.
If you want to verify that the IRS has officially contacted you, you can contact them directly by calling 800-829-1040. To report an email scam, you can forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For criminals impersonating the IRS by phone, you can report the call at www.tigta.gov.
Protect your identity
Take steps to protect your data, including your SSN and other personally identifiable information by using an identity theft protection software program. Keep paper records in a secure place and dispose of them permanently when you no longer need them. If you keep records on your computer or in the cloud, make sure they are password protected and change your passwords frequently.
If you need to send documents to a tax preparer, send them securely. Before hiring a tax preparer, do your research and ask what type of secure measures they take to protect client information.
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