What It’s Worth

What It’s Worth

It's Filing Season! How to Protect Yourself from Tax Thieves

Author: Michelle Parish
Published Date: 1/31/2018

Looking forward to getting your tax refund this year? Cyber thieves may be looking forward to getting your refund, as well.

This week marks the official start of tax filing season. To help reduce the risk that you or someone you know will become a victim of tax identity fraud, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has designated Jan. 29 – Feb 2, 2018, as Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week.  The FTS is partnering with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Department of Veterans Affairs, American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to host a week-long series of free online events, including webinars and Twitter chats. The goal is to educate consumers and businesses on how to avoid tax identity theft and what steps to take if it occurs.

For a listing of the events taking place this week, click here.

What is tax-related identity theft?

Tax identity theft occurs when someone obtains your Social Security number (SSN) by means of fraud and uses it to claim a tax refund or get a job.  You may find out that this has happened when you get a notice from the IRS saying more than one tax return was filed with your SSN, or IRS records show that you have wage income from an employer you don’t recognize, and you are hit with the tax bill for that income.

Ways to help prevent tax identity theft.

File your taxes early. The sooner you file, the less opportunity a thief has to file a return in your name. This may be especially true if you know your personal or financial information has already been compromised or stolen in a prior data breach or identity theft event. If you are a victim of tax-identity theft, filing early can bring the matter to your attention sooner than later, minimizing the time and damages associated with resolving the fraud.

In addition to filing early, there are other ways to help reduce your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft during tax season.

  • Safeguard your personal information by keeping important documents like your birth certificate and Social Security card in a secure place. Only carry this information with you when it’s necessary.
  • Before throwing away financial paperwork like receipts and credit card and bank statements, shred the information first to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. The same goes for any personal documents containing important information like your Social Security number.
  • Check your bank and credit card statements each month for any unauthorized charges, new account openings, or balance discrepancies so that you can alert your financial institution as quickly as possible. Take advantage of your bank’s identity theft protection, account alert, and credit monitoring services, if they are available.
  • If you are having your tax return prepared by someone else, check to make sure they are a reputable professional or business. And never sign a blank tax form that someone else will complete for you.
  • If filing your taxes by mail, take your tax return to the post office instead of placing it in your mailbox where it can be easily stolen.
  • If filing online, make sure your computer’s security software updates are current including anti-virus and malware protection, and make it a habit to use a firewall.
  • However you choose to file your return, request to have your refund deposited directly into your bank account so criminals cannot have a check redirected to a different address or steal it from your mailbox.

Be on the lookout for scams.

The IRS does not initiate contact to request personal or financial information through any type of electronic communication, including email, text, or social media.

Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails and text messages from thieves posing as legitimate organizations such as your bank, credit card company, and even the IRS. And do not click on links or attachments from unknown or suspicious emails. For more ways to protect yourself from identity theft, review the IRS’ Taxes.Security.Together. information page and visit the Fraud Resource Center on the PlainsCapital Bank website.

If you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, follow the steps outlined on the IRS website for assistance.

Tags: Personal Banking