Tax season is underway and while some of us may put off filing our returns, the procrastinators don’t include tax identity thieves. They’re geared up and ready to file. Unfortunately, they may be ready to file to get your tax refund.
Tax identity theft occurs when someone uses your Social Security number (SSN) to file a fraudulent tax return and claim your refund. You may not find out it has happened until you try to file your real return and the IRS rejects it as a duplicate. While the IRS investigates, your tax refund can be seriously delayed.
Government imposter scammers are close cousins of tax identity thieves. They pretend they’re calling from the IRS or another government agency, generally claiming you owe the government money. They threaten you with arrest or other bad consequences unless you pay them right away, usually with a gift card or prepaid debit card. If you do, the money will be gone. Sometimes they’ll ask you to “confirm” your identity by giving them your SSN. They’re looking for information they can use for identity theft.
How can you thwart tax identity theft?
One of the best ways is by filing as early as possible
, beating a criminal to it. This may be especially important if your personal information has been exposed, possibly in a data breach or a past incident of identity theft. Additional ways in which you can prevent identity theft:
- Protect your personal information at home, at work and on your phone
- Use secure passwords anywhere sensitive information is stored
- Know your tax preparer - make sure you’re dealing with a reputable tax company
- When using an open Wi-Fi connection, make sure it’s a legitimate connection
- Don’t file on an open Wi-Fi connection, make sure it’s secure
- If you file your taxes by paper, take it directly to the post office so it can’t be stolen
- Store your returns securely and shred any drafts
If you’re a victim of identity theft go to www.IdentityTheft.gov
to find step by step information on how to report and recover from identity theft.