Tomorrow is the start of Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, a national public awareness campaign sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). To support this campaign, below, we have pointed out some of the most effective ways that consumers can combat tax identity theft and avoid becoming victims.
How Tax Identity Theft Commonly Occur
In order to avoid becoming a victim of tax identity theft, it’s first important to understand how this type of identity theft usually occurs.
In general, tax identity theft happens when thieves get ahold of someone’s personal information, including their social security number (SSN), and use it to file fake tax returns in that person’s name. The IRS, not knowing the returns are fake, then processes them and issues a refund to the thief. The victim typically will not become aware of an issue until (s)he goes to files income taxes, only to be told that the IRS has already processed returns and a refund for him or her.
How You Can Avoid Tax Identity Theft
- Don’t carry around documents that contain your SSN – This includes your Social Security card, as these documents can be easily stolen (like when, for instance, a purse or wallet is stolen or misplaced).
- Be extremely cautious before providing your personal information to any business – In fact, it’s also best to avoid providing information like your SSN unless it is absolutely essential and unless you are absolute certain you are dealing with a legitimate company/professional.
- Regularly check your credit report – This can tip you off to identity theft before a thief files taxes in your name and steals your refund. So, try to check your credit report for any suspicious activities every 6 to 12 months.
- Protect your electronic communications and dealings – Install and use firewalls and up-to-date antivirus software so that your personal information is as safe as possible when you are online. You can take this a step further by regularly changing your passwords for important accounts, like online checking, loan or credit card accounts.
For more info on how to prevent tax identity theft, check out some additional tips from the IRS.
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