As if filing your taxes isn't stressful enough, now you've got to make sure crooks don't file a fraudulent return using your identity to claim a refund!
Folks, it's tax time identity theft and the IRS say these criminal cases are on the rise. A federal report shows that there were approximately 940,000 tax returns filed via identity theft during the 2011 processing year, an increase of 49,000 cases in two years.
Scott Mitic, CEO of TrustedID warns, "Tax time is among the most vulnerable for consumers with all of their valuable personal information being compiled and shared. It's the perfect moment for a consumer's identity to be compromised."
How can you tell if you've been a victim of tax identity theft?
- If you discover two tax returns have been filed using the same social security number, that's a sign of trouble.
- If IRS records indicate that you've received wages from an employer you've never worked for, that could be a red flag.
- Sometimes the IRS will contact you with a letter saying you may be a victim. If you receive such a letter, contact the agency immediately.
How can you protect yourself?
Taking these common sense precautions can help thwart identity thieves:
- Don't carry your social security card, or anything with your social security number written on it.
- Don't provide any individuals or businesses with your social security number unless it's absolutely required.
- Check your credit report every 12 months.
- Keep personal information and documents secure inside your home.
- Protect your computer with firewalls and software to guard against viruses, malware and phishing schemes.
Mitic says taking these immediate precautions is key. "Consumers need to better familiarize themselves with the issue and how to protect themselves. Effective assistance might not be available once their identity has been compromised." TrustedID offers its top tax time identity theft prevention tips:
- Monitor your mail closely during tax season. Make a list of everyone who pays you, including employers, banks and brokerages, and make sure you receive hard copies in the mail of what they send to the IRS.
- Track and shred important tax documents. Always keep your tax paperwork in a safe and secure location. Shred any paperwork you no longer need before you dispose of it.
- Beware of IRS-related scams. If you receive an email or phone call asking for your personal or financial information, delete it or send it to the FTC (email@example.com) for investigation. The IRS will never email taxpayers about issues related to their accounts or ask for your social security number or financial details over the phone. If you have any doubt whether a contact from the IRS is authentic, call them directly to confirm it.
For more information about tax identity theft, and what to do if you think you've become a victim, check out this IRS guide.
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