It’s the start of a new year, a great time for new beginnings. And it’s also time to start thinking about filing your tax return. Not many people look forward to this time of the year, but if you procrastinate, someone else could file your taxes for you. Great, right?! Well, not really, because that someone stole your personal information and filed your tax return for themselves. And here’s the kicker…they are getting your refund! Its part of a growing crime called tax identity theft. To avoid being a victim, learn the three signs of tax identity theft, and ways to prevent it from happening to you.
That Won’t Happen To Me – Why Should I Care?
It’s actually happening more often than you may think. Tax identity theft is a rising crime and more people are reporting this type of identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission than any other kind of ID theft. That’s why the FTC is raising awareness during National Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week. The FTC offers helpful information, free webinars, events, and live Twitter chats to educate the public on this growing crime, which you can learn more about here.
3 Tax Identity Theft Signs
According to the IRS, these are the three signs for tax identity fraud:
1. You received an IRS notice saying you worked a job that you didn’t. This is a sign that someone may have used your social security number to get a job.
2: You file your tax return and receive a notice from the IRS saying this is the second return that’s been filed under your name. If you file electronically, this may appear as an error message.
3. After you file, you find out that you have a balance, refund or are in collections with the IRS for a year you never filed.
What to Do if This Happened to You
Respond immediately to the number printed on the IRS notice you received if you think someone filed your taxes. You’ll need to fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039. You can also contact the IRS-Identity Protection Unit by calling 1-800-908-4490 or visit them online for more information.
Ways to Protect Yourself
Electronic Tax Filers
- Make sure that your spyware and anti-virus software is up to date so fraudsters can’t hack into your confidential information.
- Don’t use email to send tax documents to anyone unless the email is encrypted.
Filing Taxes by Mail
- Mail your returns from a mailbox inside the post office. Never leave it in outgoing mail at work or at home.
- Buy and use a cross cut shredder for ANY document that contains personal information.
Using a Tax Professional
- Make sure to research who you are hiring.
- Read these tips from the IRS on how to choose a tax preparer, and these steps to find one.
Tips for Everyone
- Never give out your personal information (especially your social security number) over the telephone, even if the caller claims to be from the IRS. Hang up immediately and contact the IRS directly.
- Check your credit report every year.
- Don’t carry your Social Security card, and store it in a safe place at home.
- Read these tips from the Social Security website on how to know when to give out your social security number and which businesses actually need that information.
- Ignore any email that you receive purporting to be from the IRS. The IRS does NOT communicate with taxpayers via email.
When you protect your identity, you’re helping to protect more than just your tax refund; you’re protecting your family’s precious time. Repairing your stolen identity is stressful and time-consuming, so make sure to file your taxes early this year so you can get back to what matters most in your life. Let us know any questions in the comments below. We’re always happy to help!