Protecting yourself from tax return fraud
According to a report by the Government Accountability Office, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) estimates that it mistakenly paid $5.2 billion in tax returns to identity thieves in 2013—and the IRS did not catch the scheme until well after the refund checks had been processed.
Earlier this year, ShindelRock counseled several clients who were victims of a fraudulent return filed with the State. We know this form of identity theft on the rise and it’s all too easy. A fraudster simply needs a computer, your Social Security number, and date of birth to file a fraudulent tax return.
While completely guarding against identity theft is difficult, there are actions you can take to help protect your personal information now and during tax season, including:
- Checking your credit report once a year
- Not carrying your Social Security card or any documentation containing your SSN
- Shredding all documentation containing personal information (instead of throwing it in the trash)
- Only providing personal information when necessary, especially on websites and via social media—and keeping track of who has access to it
- Never using a public Wi-Fi or a non-password-protected network to file your taxes electronically
- Protecting personal laptops and devices by installing firewalls and the most recent anti-virus software
- Filing taxes as early as possible during tax season because criminals try to file fraudulent returns before the actual filer. Once the IRS receives a return with an SSN, the agency will reject any duplicate filings and immediately notify you.
- Being wary of phone calls from individuals who already know your SSN and claim to be IRS agents. Some even manipulate caller ID.
For more information on how you can protect yourself from tax return fraud, check out Identity Theft Tax Return Fraud: Everybody is at Risk or visit the IRS website for Tips for Taxpayers, Victims about Identity Theft and Tax Returns.