Tax season is now in full swing and a story dominating the scene has been false filings specifically targeting TurboTax users. State tax departments are telling victims they should contact the Internal Revenue Service and their state tax authority as well as the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC advises consumers who have discovered theft of their identities to contact the three major credit-reporting firms — Equifax Experian and TransUnion — to place initial fraud alerts on their credit files. These alerts last for 90 days and can be renewed. Victims are entitled to a free copy of their credit report, which they can use to identify suspicious activity and dispute errors.
Consumers also can ask the credit-reporting firms to impose a credit freeze, which makes it harder for a thief to open new accounts. Your personal information also may have been used to rack up unauthorized charges on credit cards or to open new accounts.
Of course, TurboTax is assuring the public their software is safe whether downloaded or using the cd.
Still, some experts believe that using downloaded software can be safer than online preparation, although far fewer taxpayers use the former. With software, “you’re not putting your personal information on a company’s server,” says David Barton, a managing director at UHY Advisors, an information-security consulting firm in Chicago.
Intuit and outside experts say one of the best protections against identity theft is to change all passwords on a regular basis and make sure they are strong.
A huge safety issue is taxpayers using unsecured Wi-Fi access. Anyone using computer software applications should be using the latest versions available and making sure there is a password on home Internet access. Taxpayers should also update antivirus software to help prevent thieves from getting access to their information.
As always, be on the lookout for “phishing” emails that purport to be official notices from the IRS or tax preparers. One recent phishing attempt, for example, warns that “Your Federal Return Has Been Rejected” and asks the recipient to click through and enter personal information.
State tax departments are telling victims they should contact the Internal Revenue Service and their state tax authority as well as the Federal Trade Commission.
For more on best practices regarding identity theft protection please visit www.hvshred.com