It can be scary out there. Identity theft can be a painful experience, both financially and emotionally. But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Some of the scariest thefts are tax-related ID theft which occur when someone uses a taxpayer’s stolen personal information to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund. The thieves use personal information like a stolen Social Security number.
The IRS and its partners are constantly working to combat these types of crimes, but they can’t do it alone. We as taxpayers must do our part to protect our own data.
Here are some tips:
- Always use security software. This software should have firewall and anti-virus protections.
- Use strong, unique passwords. They should also consider using a password manager.
- Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening calls and texts from thieves. These scammers pose as legitimate organizations such as banks, credit card companies, and even the IRS.
- Not click on links in unsolicited emails or messages from unknown senders. Also, people shouldn’t click on links or download attachments from emails that seem suspicious, even if they appear to be from senders they know.
- Protect personal information and that of any dependents. For example, people shouldn’t routinely carry around their Social Security cards. They should also make sure tax records are secure.
The IRS provides some information at its website and in its publications that can help you protect yourself. You can also visit the FTC’s Consumer site and find a wealth of information on how to protect yourself and what to do if your identity is stolen.