Hunting season for Tax Identity Thieves has just begun. They are ready for you to procrastinate, to hold off on doing your taxes because they are ready to do it for you.
Tax identity theft occurs when the bad guy uses your Social Security Number (SSN) to file a fake tax return and collect your refund. You are unlikely to find out about it until you attempt to file your real tax return and it is rejected by the IRS as a duplicate. The fraudulent use of your SSN means you also may be at risk for other types of identity theft.
What to do.
Beat them to it and file your taxes as early as possible to ensure you do not become a victim. This is extremely important if you know your information has been part of any one of the data breaches over the years or if you have had your identity stolen in the past already.
Protect your Social Security Number whenever possible. You are often asked for your SSN on forms but it is not always necessary. Do not provide your SSN unless it is absolutely needed.
Beware of SCAMS. Lookout for Government imposters threatening fines, arrest or cancellation of your SSN if you do not pay them immediately. They will usually ask you to pay with a gift card or prepaid debit card. If you pay them, you will never see your money again. Some scammers will ask you to confirm your identity by providing your SSN, again, do not. Remember, the IRS will contact you first by mail. Additionally, the IRS will never email you, send you a text or contact you on a social network.
Secure your network. If you are filing electronically, use a secure, password-protected network or Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection to do so. You can also mail your returns directly from the Post Office, do not put them in your personal mailbox with the flag up!
Know your tax person! If you are using someone to prepare your taxes, you must go through your due diligence before you hand over your Personally Identifiable Information, (PII).
What if it happens to me? First, contact the IRS as soon as you can. Keep careful documentation of everything and stay in touch with the IRS until the issue is resolved. Second, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Third, file a complaint with the local police department. Fourth, put a fraud alert on your credit file with all three credit bureaus.
It is an open hunting season for identity thieves but we don’t have to be deer in headlights, take these steps and mitigate your risk.
Hunting season for Tax Identity Thieves and it has just begun and its time to know your rights: PDF HERE
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