01/27/2021: Protect Yourself from Tax Identity Theft

Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your stolen personal information, including your Social Security number, to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund. If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft, continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must file a paper return.

Here are ways to protect yourself from tax identity theft:

Keep Your Computer and Mobile Phone Secure

Use security software and make sure it updates automatically; essential tools include:
• Firewall
• Virus/malware protection
• File encryption for sensitive data
• Treat your personal information like cash, don’t leave it lying around
• Use strong, unique passwords; consider a password manager
• Use 2-Factor Authentication
• Give personal information only over encrypted websites – look for “https” addresses
• Back up your files

Avoid Phishing Scams and Malware

Identity thieves use phishing emails to trick users into giving up passwords and other information. Don’t take the bait. Look for:
• Emails that pose as trusted source, i.e. bank, tax provider
• Emails with an urgent message, i.e. update your account now!, with instructions to open a link or attachment
• Never download software or apps from pop-up advertising
• Talk to family about online security, both with computers and mobile devices

Protect Personal Information

Don’t routinely carry your or any dependents’ Social Security cards or documents with an SSN. Do not overshare personal information on social media. Information about past addresses, a new car, a new home and even your children help identity thieves pose as you. Keep old tax returns and tax records under lock and key or encrypted if electronic. Shred tax documents before trashing.

Avoid IRS Impersonators

The IRS will NOT call you with threats of jail or lawsuits. The IRS will NOT send you an unsolicited email suggesting you have a refund or that you need to update your account. The IRS will NOT request any sensitive information online. These are all scams, and they are persistent. Don’t fall for them. Forward IRS-related scam emails to phishing@irs.gov. Report IRS impersonation telephone calls at www.tigta.gov.

Additional steps:
• Check your credit report annually; check your bank and credit card statements often.
• Review your Social Security Administration records annually: Sign up for My Social Security at www.ssa.gov.
• If you are an identity theft victim and your tax account is affected, review www.irs.gov/identitytheft for details.

View the Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft on the IRS website >>

Article courtesy of Internal Revenue Service.