Posted On 05 Mar 2019
Identity thieves look to make illegal purchases or open fake accounts in others’ names. They do this by stealing bank account numbers, personal information and Social Security Numbers (SSN). According to a report by Javelin Strategy and Research, around 15.4 million customers suffered from identity theft last year in the US.
Tax returns provide a wealth of personal information that can be exploited by scammers. While most of us are worrying about our tax returns, criminals are getting ready to swoop in and take advantage of our vulnerability.
Speaking to the IRS
Be cautious. If you receive unsolicited contact from the IRS, double check the source. If a telephone caller claims to work for the IRS, they may be lying to you. In many cases, impersonators will claim that you’re owed a refund and then ask for your personal information. In some instances, scammers will even claim that you owe money and face arrest if you hang up.
Be smart. The IRS only contacts individuals by post and will not request any personal or financial information via email, social media or text message.
Keep your Social Security Card somewhere safe and avoid carrying any documents that contain your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or SSN.
If a business representative asks for your SSN or ITIN, don’t feel obliged to provide it. Only give this information when companies definitely need it and when you’re completely confident that they are who they say they are.
Keep tabs on your credit report. If you’re aware of your credit rating, you’ll quickly spot any fraudulent activity on your accounts.
Secure your information at home
Use firewalls and anti-virus software to protect your home computers. With security patches and regular password updates, you can prevent malicious access to your internet accounts.
If you use a tax assistant, choose your supplier wisely. While most are completely trustworthy, the IRS warns against preparers who manipulate income and deductions to trigger tax benefits and suspiciously large refunds.
Tax season is stressful enough without falling victim to fraud. Be savvy and question those phone calls and emails. Guard your personal information and protect your finances.