Tax Time! Protect Yourself from Identity Theft This Tax Season
For identity thieves, tax-filing time is like a four-month-long Mardi Gras, where the "Big Easy" has more to do with the ease of separating taxpayers from their refunds than a Bourbon Street party.
Millions of taxpayers are focused now on fulfilling their annual tax obligations or perhaps, if they're lucky, on getting a refund. Tax returns include critical data — including Social Security numbers (SSNs), birth dates and home addresses — that often serve as the key that unlocks many doors for thieves intent on fraud.
Below are some commonsense precautions to safeguard your identity during tax filing time.
Filing tax returns online
Be sure to use a strong password to protect your documents. After filing, save your file on a CD, and delete it from your hard drive. Store the CD in a hidden lock box or safe.
Filing tax returns by mail
If you're mailing your return, drop it in a mailbox inside the post office (overflowing mailboxes outside are a target for mail theft). Never leave a mailed tax return in the outgoing mailbox at work.
Don't let mail sit in your mailbox for long, especially if you're expecting a mailed refund.
Hiring a tax preparer to file your return
Be careful whom you choose to do your taxes; run a check through the Better Business Bureau. Quiz the tax preparer about how she will store your information, whether it will be encrypted, what computer security software she uses and who has access to the files.
Avoid online tax preparers; many of them are illegitimate professionals.
Don't email tax documents to your accountant unless they're encrypted to prevent unauthorized access to your personal information.
Tax Return storage and disposal
Use a crosscut shredder to dispose of backup paperwork you don't need. Anything with your SSN, birth date and other personal information should be shredded.
Make sure that any photocopier you use doesn't store images of your tax documents in its memory.
Store a copy of your tax return in a locked file cabinet or safe.
Stay alert to signs of fraud
Cons may attempt to pose as IRS tax officials in an attempt to obtain your personal information.
Email- Ignore any email that purports to come from the IRS, even if it looks official. The IRS does not communicate with taxpayers via email.
Phone Calls-If you receive an unsolicited phone call from someone claiming to be with the IRS, don't speak to the caller. Hang up, and call the IRS directly.
IRS SUSPICIOUS E-MAILS AND IDENTITY THEFT INFO CLICK HERE
If you ever have any doubt or suspicions immediately call the IRS directly yourself!