With the 2018 tax filing season already underway, it’s important to remember that scammers are ready and waiting for an opportunity to gain access to your personal information and commit crimes like filing a fake tax return in your name. According to the IRS, over 155 million tax returns are expected to be filed this year and while it has many protections in place for possible fraud, they still warn the public to be vigilant about protecting their personal information.
Here are some things to keep in mind this tax season to prevent identity theft.
Don’t Take Phone Calls from the IRS
In recent years we’ve seen more and more scam IRS calls targeting people across the U.S. by threatening to send police to arrest them if immediate payment isn’t sent. Not only will the IRS never phone call or email about a situation like this, but they also will never demand payment via a prepaid card. You may think it’s an actual official based on what appears on your caller ID, but phone number spoofing is so common today, that you cannot trust what displays when calls come through either. If you receive a call like this during tax season, or any time of year, hang up immediately and consult this Tax Administrator scam help page with next steps for reporting the fraud attempt.
Always be Wary of Your Caller ID
With the ability to change phone numbers and what displays on caller ID today you can no longer trust it as a form of identifying who is calling you. You may receive a call that displays as your banking institution or Credit Card Company and hear someone on the other line who seems to know a lot about you and your information and easily give up information they request. Unfortunately, many times these are actually sophisticated scammers that are looking to steal your information. To be sure you’re actually talking to the right business, do not answer the call. Return the call by dialing the actual phone number yourself and speaking to someone at the bank to find out if they called and what they may need from you. It’s the only way to be sure you’re talking to the right contact before revealing your personal information.
Protect Your Social Security Number
Scammers can attempt to file a fake return in your name by using three identifying pieces of information – some of which are pretty much available anywhere: Your name, date of birth and social. This is why it’s so important to protect your social security number because it’s the one thing that can’t be easily found and that’s unique to you. Be cautious of where you enter this number online and any printed documents you have sitting around with your social on it. Don’t just toss them in the trash, you must shred and you should empty your email inbox of any important documents with this information. It’s also a good practice to leave your actual social security card somewhere safe. Maybe a locked box. You should not be carrying it with you everywhere or in your wallet.
The deadline to file your taxes has been extended this year to make up for the fact that April 15 falls on a Sunday and the Washington D.C. Emancipation Day holiday is being pushed to April 16. While the deadline is now April 17, experts warn that you should not wait until last minute to file your taxes as you’ll also increase your chances of fraudulent filing attempts. This year especially with the Equifax Breach having occurred and so many social security numbers stolen, were likely to see many more fraudsters trying to file fake returns before you actually get around to filing yours. File as soon as you can to stop them in their tracks.