Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week runs for five days, beginning on Monday, January 25, 2021. Here are some tips to protect yourself.
What Is Tax Identity Theft?
Criminals may obtain your Social Security number and other personal information and use it to file a fraudulent tax return in your name. If you’re owed a refund, identity thieves can have the money directed to them. You may not find out until you attempt to file a legitimate tax return and it gets flagged as a duplicate.
You can suffer in other ways. Scammers may open fraudulent credit card accounts and take out loans using your personal information. That can cause serious harm to your credit and keep you from qualifying for credit you deserve.
File Your Taxes Early and Safely
Scammers file fraudulent tax returns early, hoping that they can collect refunds before taxpayers file legitimate returns. Submitting your tax return early may help you avoid becoming a victim of tax identity theft.
If you want to hire an accountant to prepare your taxes, research the company first. That can help you avoid inadvertently handing your sensitive information over to a scammer.
If you file your tax return yourself online, make sure you have a secure internet connection and use a trusted website or software. If you mail your return, send it directly from a post office. If you leave the return in your mailbox and wait for a postal worker to pick it up, someone may remove the paperwork and steal your personal information.
If you have to discard any documents containing personal information, shred them first. Identity thieves have been known to dig through trash searching for information.
Don’t Fall for a Scam
The Internal Revenue Service will only contact you via U.S. Mail. If someone contacts you via phone, text, email, or social media and claims to represent the IRS, it’s a scam. Don’t provide any information.
Monitor your credit reports. If you notice any unfamiliar accounts, contact the credit bureaus and tell them you suspect that you may be a victim of identity theft.
Safeguard Your Social Security Number
Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet on a regular basis. Be careful when giving out your Social Security number. Many companies and other entities may request it, but that doesn’t mean that they need it or that you should give it to them. Never provide your Social Security number unless you know that the person requesting it works for a company or agency that has a legitimate need for that information. If someone calls you claiming to represent a government agency or a private company and requesting personal information, hang up.
Review Your Insurance
While you’re thinking about protecting yourself from identity thieves, it’s also a good time to think about other perils. Make sure you have appropriate auto, home, life, and medical insurance that suits your family’s needs. Contact Petruzelo Insurance to compare quotes from leading companies.