T'is the season! Tax season that is. It’s also identity theft season. Last year over 100,000 people discovered that their identity had been stolen when they attempted to file their taxes. While the IRS and other tax jurisdictions have worked diligently to reduce the number of fraudulent filings, there is still a lot that you can do to protect yourself from identity theft.
Your Social Security Number
The number one source of tax return identity theft involves stolen Social Security numbers (“SSN”). The IRS and other taxing jurisdictions use SSN’s to identify taxpayers, so thieves can use a stolen SSN to file a fake return and steal your refund.
To help prevent this, don’t carry your SSN card with you and keep any documents with your SSN in a safe and secure place. Be very careful when entering your SSN on websites as well. Always make sure that the page you are on has an SSL certificate (look for look for https:// to the left in your browser’s address bar.) Be sure that the site is reputable.
Protect Your Personal Information
Be very skeptical of emails that appear to be from taxing jurisdictions. The IRS and most taxing jurisdictions will communicate through paper mail and not through email or phone calls. Scammers can use very convincing emails or threatening phone calls to steal your personal information or money.
Protect your computer by performing regularly scheduled updates, utilizing virus, malware and other security software. Always use a strong password and change it regularly. Always be diligent when opening and clicking links in your email and on websites. Do not provide personal information over the phone and especially do not give out payment information.
Stay Current with Data Breaches
In this day and age there have been data breaches in very large companies that can compromise your personal information. Always be aware of any large scale data breaches and determine if you are affected. If you are, you may want to place a “fraud alert,” on your credit record, get new credit cards, and purchase an identity theft program (such as LifeLock.) If needed, you can also file a Form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit with the IRS.
If you suspect you’ve been the victim of this crime, we can also help. You can start by downloading Zinner’s free Identity Theft Checklist. It contains information that can be helpful in this situation. If you have any questions, feel free to contact a Zinner accounting professional.