Feb 1, 2024
It’s tax season again, meaning everyone will expect tax refunds soon. Unfortunately, not everyone will see theirs. Some may learn that thieves have already filed a return in their name and stolen their tax refund.
Sometimes, thieves could use your identity to get a job. In such cases, they could make you shoulder their taxes. Identity theft is a year-round problem. However, tax season often exacerbates the number of thefts. The significant increase happens this time of the year due to the large amount of money available through tax refunds.
You can take several steps to protect yourself from tax identity theft; some will also help prevent other forms of theft. Here are a few of these steps.
Protect Your Personal Information
Identity thieves will use anything they can to steal your money. They can use information like your date of birth and Social Security Number (SSN) to achieve their goals, but it does not stop here. Accessing your credit card and other account numbers also provides openings to your finances.
Unfortunately, this information is easy to find on related paperwork and online accounts. It does not require much effort to find someone’s name and learn about a person’s life if their social media accounts are public. Thieves interested in your banking information could learn the basics by watching and listening to you at the bank.
Because of examples like these, it is crucial to secure your information. Shred documents you no longer need, lock what you do, and be aware of anyone paying too much attention when you discuss private information.
Be Careful Providing Information Online and Over the Phone
Due to the ease of access technology provides, you have likely provided personal information to others over the phone or online. Such cases could be for medical reasons like telehealth, signing up for school, or asking questions about housing or employment opportunities. Do you remember where you last held such a conversation?
For many, such conversations happen while in public. You could accidentally provide your name, address, and employment to an identity thief. This thief, equipped with such information, could dig deeper and assume your identity.
You should also consider whether the call or website is legitimate. Every year, people encounter scammers pretending to work for the IRS. The IRS will not request your information through text, phone, or e-mail. If you doubt something, look up the contact information and speak with the IRS directly.
Use Secure Passwords
Everyone has many online accounts, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, storing personal and financial information. Keeping this information secure is crucial, and one way to succeed is by using strong passwords. You can use a password manager to create and store strong passwords. These programs generate long and complex passwords. As recommended by most websites, they will contain numbers, symbols, and a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters.
A strong password will ensure no one accesses your information when you prepare your taxes. After generating one, prepare to file your taxes as early as possible. The sooner you file, the sooner your refund arrives. Acting quickly also gives identity thieves less time to steal your information and money. As slim as the chances become, there is still the possibility of an identity thief succeeding.
Responding to Tax Identity Theft
If someone successfully files under your name first, the IRS will reject your attempt as a duplicate. Depending on how you file, the IRS will inform you online or through mail. In either case, the IRS will explain what went wrong and the steps for how to fix it. You should report the identity theft at IdentityTheft.gov.
This website offers the option to submit an IRS Identity Theft Affidavit to the IRS online. Accepting this action allows the IRS to investigate the claim. If you want a physical copy of the affidavit, you can request the IRS via irs.gov to send it through the mail.
Identity thieves can also use this information to obtain credit cards or take out loans in your name. Sometimes, thieves will commit crimes in your name. If you suspect someone stole your identity, you should run a credit report and self-background check. Reviewing your information lets you see whether someone opened new accounts or committed crimes in your name.
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