As tax day rolls closers, the IRS has amped up their notices of scammers and identity theft. In the days of e-file, it’s easier than ever to file your taxes however, we all need to take extra precautionary steps to ensure our returns are filed safely and securely. Read on to learn more about how scammer and identity thieves are tricking taxpayers across the nation and what you can do to protect yourself.
Tax Identity Theft Defined:
Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses a Social Security number (SSN) — either a client’s, a spouse’s, or dependent’s — to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund.
Thieves may also use a stolen Employer Identification Number (EIN) from a business client to create fake W-2 forms to support refund fraud schemes.
Understand the Warning Signs:
You may have fallen victim to identity theft if the IRS contacts you about:
- Owing an additional tax, refund offset or have had collections action taken against you for a year you did not owe or file a return,
- More than 1 tax return was filed for you,
- IRS records indicate you made more income than you did, or income was derived from sources you did not work.
How to Avoid Tax Identity Theft:
The Internet can be a highly secured platform but it is also plagued with viruses, phishing scams, and false advertising. The IRS recently posted a flyer with information on Identity Theft for Taxpayers, noting that the most important thing you can do to protect your identity, is to protect your information. Never give out your personal information on an unrecognized site. Also, never click on suspicious emails, or ads as these may be identity thieves attempting to access your personal files.
When it comes to taxes, keep your Social Security card in a safe place. Avoid carrying it with you rather, keep it at home, in a lockbox. Also, the IRS is not allowed to request personal or financial information via email so no matter how official the email looks, never respond to email requests. Remember, your identity is everything. Once an identity thief obtains your information, they can file taxes under your name, take erroneous deductions and claim a huge refund, all before you know your identity has been compromised!
The IRS has taken steps to minimize tax identity theft but only you, the taxpayer can be completely in control of who obtains your personal information. Be sure when you provide personal information, that you understand who is actually receiving your information.