March 12, 2014
Tax related identity theft is reaching nightmarish and epidemic proportions. Heed the following to minimize your risk.
- File taxes early. ‘Tis the season for tax fraud, and scammers like to get a jump start from the beginning. File early before the fraudsters file.
- Use electronic filing. Paying the IRS via e-filing is fast and more secure than the paper method. You’ll also get an e-confirmation of receipt. E-filing also lets you know promptly if another person has filed under your own information.
- An IRS e-mail is probably a fake. You’ll never get an unsolicited e-mail from Uncle Sam asking for your SSN, date of birth or other private information. Don’t open these e-mails. If you accidentally open one, do nothing more than forward it to email@example.com.
- Fake web sites. Telltale signs of a fraudulent site are typos and grammatical mistakes, odd page layouts, an unprofessional appearance and other oddities. Be suspicious if there’s not a tiny yellow padlock and “https” to the left of the URL.
- Be careful where you store. Never store tax information on an Internet drive or cloud. If it must be stored on a computer, encrypt the drive. Better yet, store it on an external drive or disk that’s encrypted or password protected, and store this in a locked safe.
- Strong, long passwords and usernames. Use an assortment of characters (letters, numbers, symbols like # and *).
- Check your annual Social Security statement. It shows all income from U.S.-workers under your SSN.
- Your tax preparer. Use a reputable, licensed tax preparation firm. There exist many tax fraudsters.
- Be on red alert. Services that claim to have no or very low tax liability often sock you with very high fees, or divert refunds or take money from returns.
- Snail mail alert. Monitor reception of tax forms. Take notice if any are late or seem to have been opened. If anything is awry, notify the provider at once to find out when they were sent out.