It’s tax season and you have just over a month to file your taxes! It also means this is a busy time for scammers and identity thieves. Here are a few of the scams taking place along with steps you can take to prevent identity theft.
Identity Theft: This usually involves obtaining your name, address, and social security number then filing a false claim with the IRS to obtain a “refund.” This is a huge problem and continues to grow. The amount grows every year with fraudulent returns expected to rob the treasury of $21 billion. While few of us would argue the government is bloated, these actions cause us all to pay higher taxes.
One way to determine whether or not you’ve been victimized in this way is if the IRS notifies you by mail you’ve filed more than one tax return, someone filed using your information, or you have a balance due or have had collection actions taken against you for a year when you didn’t file a return. In addition, if the IRS informs you your refund is being withheld or reduced to pay back taxes or you received wages from an employer where you didn’t work.
If you receive a letter like this, call the IRS at (800) 826-1040 to verify the letter’s authenticity. Only then should you contact the person who’s named on the letter. I also recommend contacting the security department of your bank(s) and credit cards to make them aware you may have had your identity stolen. Request new cards and/or accounts and then carefully review all your activity to make sure your accounts don’t have any suspicious charges, withdrawals, etc.
Phone Tax Scams: Some scammers are impersonating IRS agents and demanding immediate payment with a credit or debit card. Some will even threaten prison time if you don’t comply. The IRS will contact you by a letter prior to any call and they will never threaten prison time or demand immediate payment. They will not ask you for your social security number, credit card information, or PINS.
Phishing: The IRS will not send you phishing emails or text messages asking you for personal information, or to inform you of a refund or penalty. Think about it, have you ever put your email address or cell phone number on your return?! All communication from IRS will be by mail or certified mail. You can always confirm if it’s legitimate by forwarding it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bogus Tax Preparers: There are a number of legitimate places to have your taxes prepared if you prefer not to. There are an increasing number of preparers who pop up this time of year to prepare returns and perpetrate refund fraud, identity theft, or some other action that hurts innocent people.
Here are a couple of additional suggestions to help keep your information safe:
- The IRS will not contact you via email or through Facebook to request your personal information.
- File your return electronically using the option available in your tax software.
- If you mail your tax return, walk it into the post office (one of the post offices I’ve used in the Lake Highlands area of Dallas discovered its drive up mail boxes had been broken into).
- If you’re expecting a refund, have it deposited into your account directly (you’ll get it quicker this way too!).
- Think about getting a post office box to keep any mail you receive secure.
What are you doing to keep your data safe? Share that with us on my Google +, Facebook or LinkedIn pages. I’d love to hear from you!