John P. Willis | IRSALLSTAR
Identity theft is a problem most of us are familiar with. We’ve all heard the horror stories—ruined credit, sky-high credit card bills, and so on. But did you know that your tax returns are a particularly lucrative target for would-be identity thieves?
To shed some light on this issue, and to help taxpayers avoid falling victim, the IRS recently published a Special Edition Tax Tip offering three key steps taxpayers should take to avoid identity theft:
- Guard your personal information. Identity thieves can get your personal information in many ways. This includes stealing your wallet or purse, posing as someone who needs information about you, looking through your trash, or stealing information you provide to an unsecured website or in an unencrypted e-mail.
- Watch out for IRS impersonators. Be aware that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or social media channels to request personal or financial information or notify people of an audit, refund or investigation. Scammers may also use phone calls, faxes, websites or even in-person contacts. If you’re suspicious that it’s not really the IRS contacting you, don’t respond. Visit our Report Phishing web page to see what to do.
- Protect information on your computer. While preparing your tax return, protect it with a strong password. Once you e-file the return, take it off your hard drive and store it on a CD or flash drive in a safe place, like a lock box or safe. If you use a tax preparer, ask how he or she will protect your information.
The report then continues by identifying several signs which may indicate that you have already been victimized by identity theft. These signs can include:
- You filed more than one tax return or someone has already filed using your information;
- You owe taxes for a year when you were not legally required to file and did not file; or
- You were paid wages from an employer where you did not work.
Respond quickly using the contact information in the letter you received from the IRS so that we can begin to correct and secure your tax account.
If you think you may be at risk for identity theft due to a lost or stolen purse or wallet, questionable credit card activity, an unexpected bad credit report or any other way, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit toll-free at 1-800-908-4490. The IRS will then take steps to secure your tax account.
Unfortunately, identity theft becomes more and more common each year. As we continue to move towards a more electronically based economy, the threat of identity theft is likely to rise further. It’s critically important that you take steps to protect yourself and your family while filing your taxes, as the information disclosed on your tax return is a “gold mine” for criminals. If you’d like to learn more, or if you would like assistance preparing and filing your tax returns, please get in touch with us today!