The U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, has put out a warning to those filing taxes this year to protect against identity fraud. Tax season is a breeding ground for identity fraud, and if you are not careful, your tax return could be filed fraudulently, or stolen. The warning from the Attorney General mentions identity theft could be done by someone as close to you as your tax preparer, but also identity brokers, and other criminals. Holder claims the Justice Department has seen an increase in tax fraud, and warns that low-income families, elderly, Medicaid users, and people that have lost a family member are the most likely to be victimized. These people are also the ones that need their refund the most.
Reasons you may be susceptible to identity theft
For identity theft to occur, sensitive personal information is gained by the criminal. This can happen many different ways, so you may want to keep an eye out if any of the following situations has happened to you:
- Stolen wallet, or purse
- Data security breach at work, or home
- Entered personal information on an unsecured website
These are the most common ways identity predators get your information.
Ways to protect your taxes and identity
Keeping your personal information safe should be a priority of every person, so knowing how the IRS works is important. The IRS does not use social media, email, or any other electronic method to get more information from you, or audit you. If you do receive an email claiming to be from the IRS, then immediately forward it to email@example.com . Use that same email address to forward any website links you have found that claim to be the IRS, but do not start with “www.irs.gov.”
As a general rule, do not submit any personal information to an unsecured website, or over the phone to anyone you do not know, or did not initiate contact with. Always verify who you are speaking with before giving out information.
If you have had personal information stolen, then you can fax the IRS an identity theft affidavit, government issued I.D., and a police report of the stolen wallet, or information. You can also call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit.
Another way to lower your risk of identity theft is to avoid carrying around important documents like your birth certificate, passport, and social security number. Picking strong passwords for all of your tax-related websites is strongly recommended.
Hopefully with these simple tools, you can eliminate your risk, and help the IRS crackdown on scammers.