Keep your return safe: 6 tips to avoid tax identity theft
It’s tax season, and that means scammers are working overtime to con you out of your refund.
Tax identity theft occurs when a thief uses your Social Security number to file a tax return, claiming a fraudulent refund. It also happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a job, but let’s focus on the latter.
While the IRS states that it has an aggressive strategy of prevention, detection and victim assistance to help with tax identity fraud, it’s still better to never be a victim in the first place. Learn how you can protect your identity and get squared away with Uncle Sam with relative ease.
File taxes as early as possible
The major reason scammers get away with fraud is that they depend on people to file their taxes at the last minute. The sooner you file, the less chance a scammer has to take advantage of you.
If you’re ready to file, all you have to do is login to your online banking account and click the link to use the TurboTax software.
Review your credit report
It’s free to find out if there’s any suspicious activity using your identity. Get free credit reports from all three major credit reporting bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Don’t give out your personal information
Never give out your Social Security number. Don’t respond to phone calls, emails, social media posts or text messages asking for your Social Security number, date of birth or bank account information.
Install antivirus, firewall and malware protections on your computer
There are excellent free virus-protection programs available, as well as browser extensions. One of the most effective steps you can take to making sure your device is safe is by upgrading your system and your software as soon as the manufacturer recommends doing so.
Change your passwords frequently
In addition to changing your passwords on the regular, make sure to use different ones for different accounts. If you need help managing all of your passwords, there are apps that can help you with it.
Know how to spot scams, phishing and fraud before they happen to you
The best defense against identity theft is knowledge. Clark Howard provides excellent info on all the ways people can try to swindle you out of your tax refund. We also provide updates on social media and our blog all year long about identity theft topics.
If you become a victim, identity theft protection company LifeLock, suggests taking these actions immediately:
- Report the fraud by calling the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1.800.908.4490.
- File a report with your local police department.
- Go to IdentityTheft.org and file a complaint with the FTC.
- Contact the major national credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) to place a fraud alert. Once you contact one bureau, they will contact the other two.
- Contact Arsenal and any other financial institutions to see if any accounts were opened without your permission. Close any accounts with suspicious activity.
- When the IRS contacts you by mail, respond to their notices and fill out any forms they send.