Ready for tax season? If you haven’t heard about tax identity theft, you may not be.
This week is Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week. Tax identity theft happens when someone files a phony tax return using your personal information — like your Social Security number — to get a tax refund from the IRS. It also can happen when someone uses your Social Security number to get a job or claims your child as a dependent on a tax return. Tax identity theft has been the most common form of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for the past five years.
Tax identity thieves get your personal information in a number of ways. For example:
- someone goes through your trash or steals mail from your home or car
- imposters send phony emails that look like they’re from the IRS and ask for personal information
- employees at hospitals, nursing homes, banks, and other businesses steal your information
- phony or dishonest tax preparers misuse their clients’ information or pass it along to identity thieves
So what can you do about it? To lessen the chance you’ll be a victim:
- file your tax return early in the tax season, if you can, before identity thieves do
- use a secure internet connection if you file electronically. Don’t use unsecure, publicly available Wi-Fi hotspots at places like coffee shops or a hotel lobby
- mail your tax return directly from the post office
- shred copies of your tax return, drafts, or calculation sheets you no longer need
- respond to all mail from the IRS as soon as possible
- know the IRS won’t contact you by email, text, or social media. If the IRS needs information, it will first contact you by mail.
- don’t give out your Social Security number (SSN) or Medicare number unless necessary. Ask why it’s needed, how it’s going to be used, and how it will be stored.
- get recommendations and research a tax preparer thoroughly before you hand over personal information. Make sure your accountant only uses secure email with end-to-end encryption to communicate with you. (Don’t send sensitive information to your accountant—even if they ask you to!)
- if your SSN has been compromised, contact the IRS ID Theft Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490
- check your credit report at least once a year for free at annualcreditreport.com to make sure no other accounts have been opened in your name
What if you are a victim? Tax identity theft victims typically find out about the crime when they get a letter from the IRS saying that more than one tax return was filed in their name, or IRS records show they received wages from an employer they don’t know. If you get a letter like this, don’t panic. Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490.
When communicating with your tax professional, use SenditCertified to protect your confidential information. SenditCertified enables subscribers to securely exchange confidential messages and files with encryption. Easily send your accountant electronic files regarding stock options, bank accounts, social security numbers, family finances and investments electronically, without compromising security. (Your message recipient doesn’t need to register or subscribe. They don’t need a particular email service to send you a secure message or receive one.)
Try a full featured 14-day trial of SenditCertified with unlimited use. (No credit card required for a free trial.) Visit www.SenditCertified.com to learn more.
January 26th-30th is Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week.