Again, we can’t emphasize enough how important it is to stay vigilant during tax season. Thieves who steal taxpayers’ personal tax-related information can use it to steal identities as well. To help prevent these crimes, the IRS offers the following suggestions.
1. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information or to announce an audit or refund. If you get a notice like this, it’s a fraud.
2. If you receive a scam e-mail claiming to be from the IRS, forward it to the IRS email@example.com. IRS impersonation schemes flourish during tax season and can take the form of e-mail, phone, websites—even tweets. If you receive a paper letter or notice via mail claiming to be the IRS but you suspect it is a scam, contact the IRS.
3. Be aware of the ways identity thieves can get your personal information, such as by stealing your wallet or purse, posing as someone who needs information about you through a phone call or e-mail, looking through your trash, accessing information you provide to an unsecured Internet site.
4. If you discover a website that claims to be the IRS but does not begin with “www.irs.gov,” forward that link to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. If your Social Security number is stolen, another individual may use it to get a job. That person’s employer may report income earned by them to the IRS using your Social Security number, thus making it appear that you did not report all of your income. When this occurs, contact the IRS to show that the income is not yours. Your record will be updated to reflect only your information. You will also be asked to submit substantiating documentation to authenticate yourself, thus minimizing the chance this will occur again.
6. Show your Social Security card to your employer when you start a job or to your financial institution for tax reporting purposes, but do not routinely carry your card or other documents that display your Social Security number.
7. While preparing your tax return for electronic filing, make sure to use a strong password to protect the data file. Once your return has been e-filed, burn the file to a CD or flash drive and remove the personal information from your hard drive. Store the CD or flash drive in a lock box or safe. If working with an accountant, you should ask them what measures they take to protect your information.
9. If you have information about the identity thief that impacted your personal information negatively, file an online complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The IC3 gives victims of cyber crime a convenient and easy-to-use reporting mechanism that alerts authorities of suspected criminal or civil violations. IC3 sends every complaint to law enforcement or regulatory agencies that have jurisdiction over the matter.
For more information, view the IRS publications Protect Yourself from Identity Theft and Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft all available at www.irs.gov
There is also plenty of information on best practices for identity theft prevention at hvshred.com