Tips to Thwart Tax Thieves
Protecting your identity and your taxes can feel like an uphill battle. Each year around this time, we like to share reminders of best practices to keep your identity safe as awareness is a key component to protecting your identity. Typically, tax season brings about a surge of attempts for scammers and identity thieves to phish for your personal information. As such, the IRS publishes an annual list of “Dirty Dozen” tax scams that the agency has seen and anticipates to see that include email phishing, phone calls, and unscrupulous tax preparers.
Below you will find some practical and simple tips to help you in protecting your taxes and overall identity.
IRS Tips to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
Here are seven tips directly from the IRS website that can help you to protect yourself against identity theft:
- Always use security software. This software should have firewall and anti-virus protections.
- Use strong, unique passwords. They should also consider using a password manager.
- Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening calls and texts from thieves. These scammers pose as legitimate organizations such as banks, credit card companies, and even the IRS.
- Not click on links in unsolicited emails or messages from unknown senders. Also, people shouldn’t click on links or download attachments from emails that seem suspicious, even if they appear to be from senders they know.
- Protect personal information and that of any dependents. For example, people shouldn’t routinely carry around their Social Security cards. They should also make sure tax records are secure.
Become Familiar with Tax Scams
Being aware of tax scams – new and old – can help you more quickly identify suspicious behavior to keep yourself protected. Below is a list of current scams targeting taxpayers from the IRS website.
- Taxpayers should be on the lookout for a new version of SSN scam
- Scams related to natural disasters
- Security Summit warns of new IRS impersonation email scam
- IRS warns of new phone scam using Taxpayer Advocate Service numbers
- IRS: Don’t be a victim to a “ghost” tax return preparer
Additional Ways to Protect Yourself
- The IRS will never call your home without mailing you a notice first, call to demand immediate payment, or require you to use a specific payment method (such as an electronic check). If you receive a call that involves any of these tactics, hang up and report the call to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
- Be suspicious of any mail purporting to be from the IRS that demands immediate payment by calling a certain phone number and giving bank account or credit card information. If there’s a legitimate issue with your taxes, the IRS will always give you the opportunity to dispute the claim.
- If you are ever unsure if a printed notice that you receive is actually from the IRS, you can call the agency’s toll-free number to confirm: 800-829-1040.
- Never trust an email or text that claims to be from the IRS as the agency does not contact taxpayers through either of these communication methods.
- Remember that scammers rely on scare tactics to get information. If you receive emails claiming to be the IRS informing you that there are rejected tax forms or impending checking account deductions, ignore the email.
- The official address of the IRS website is irs.gov. Use caution if the domain displayed in the email or website claims to be IRS related but ends in .com, .net, .org, or other domain suffix.
- The IRS does not offer web-based products to the general public, only for tax preparers. If you encounter an ad for IRS products that allow you to file your personal taxes, avoid it.
In addition to occurrences relating to your federal taxes, tax fraud can also affect your state filings, and states have also increased their protection of residents by increasing security. We’ve included references for both California and Virginia in this post, but please contact us if you would like the information for any other states tax fraud features.
Recovering from any type of identity theft can be a long and frustrating process. If you haven’t considered an identity protection service, we feel that the investment can help with potential future stress. Identity protection services cannot stop identity theft from happening, but they can help you identify the theft quicker and assist you in restoring your identity. While it is unfortunate that identity theft is becoming common, the increase in theft also means that more companies have processes in place to handle the situation as quickly as possible.
For more information about overall identity protection, please see the Federal Trade Commission’s one-stop resource for identity theft victims which provides a step-by-step guide to help users through reporting identity theft and creating an action plan for resolution.