It’s that time of the year again – tax season. While you’re careful to compile all of your receipts and to fill out the forms completely, cyber crooks are positively drooling at the prospect of all that personal data out there on the Internet for the taking.
So what’s the worst that can happen? In a couple words: identity theft. Here are a few simple tips to help protect your identity and your money this tax season.
An essential part of identity protection during tax season is filing early. You can cut down the chance of tax refund fraud when you are one of the first to file. By the time you get around to doing your taxes, a thief might have already processed the fake return and collected a refund. If you’re organized and you’ve got all of your documents ready, filing ASAP can head off would-be thieves before they have time to act.
Report phishing attempts
All unsolicited emails claiming to be from either the IRS or any other IRS-related components such as the Office of Professional Responsibility or Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) should be reported to firstname.lastname@example.org. See www.IRS.gov/phishing for details.
Keep an eye out for missing mail
Fraudsters are constantly looking for monthly credit card statements, W-2s, tax refunds or other mail containing your financial information. If your employer indicates that your W-2s have been mailed, and you have not recieved them or it looks like they have been previously opened upon delivery, contact the IRS immediately.
Never give out your personal information unless it is a trusted entity
The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages, or social media to request personal or financial information.
Steer clear of public wi-fi
Never use public Wi-Fi or unsecured networks (coffee shops, libraries, hotels, etc.) to file electronically. If you do not have access to a secure connection, file via U.S. Mail
The bottom line is, filing early, being prepared, staying vigilant online, and employing the proper security technology—if you follow these tips then you can not only keep cybercriminals from cashing in on your tax returns but also from taxing your peace of mind.
To learn more about how to protect your information during tax season, visit https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-scams-consumer-alerts For more cyber resources and tips, please visit www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect.