Thousands of hard-working taxpayers fall victim to identity theft and fraud during tax season. In many cases, knowledge is power. The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment. In general, the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by phone, email, text message, or social media channels to request personal or financial information. If you owe money, you will receive a letter or bill in the mail first. With that in mind, follow these five easy steps to avoid being victimized.
1. SAFEGUARD YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER.
Never carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse. If a thief has both your Social Security number and credit cards, they can steal almost anything you have including your identity.
2. FILE YOUR TAX RETURN EARLY.
For many people, the first sign that they’ve been victimized is an electronic return filing rejection. Identity thieves will file a false (bogus) tax return early to get your tax refund, so stay ahead of them by filing early.
3. STRENGTHEN YOUR CYBERSECURITY.
Use a password manager and two-factor authentication on your electronic devices.
Installing a firewall on your computer is also a good first step.
4. KNOW THE LATEST SCAMS.
The IRS provides a regularly updated list of common scams called the “Dirty Dozen.” Knowing what they are will help you avoid them.
5. PAY ATTENTION TO IRS NOTICES AND YOUR CREDIT.
If someone files taxes under your SSN, the IRS will notify you. During tax season, you may also want to freeze your credit and receive fraud alerts to make sure that you know where and when your SSN is being used.
To report a suspected tax fraud or IRS-related phishing attempt, contact the IRS immediately at (800) 829-0433.