If you’re not thinking about your taxes yet, you should be—identity thieves certainly are.
During tax season, there’s a significant increase in the sharing of sensitive information, both online and via postal mail. Not surprisingly, it’s also when many crooks and scammers come out of the woodwork. For them, it’s prime time to steal your personal information and possibly your identity. Or, if you’re like the many Americans who fell victim to a major data breach in 2015, your information is already out there, and identity thieves may use tax season to capitalize on it. This year, the Internal Revenue Service expects refund fraud to hit a whopping $21 billion.
What is tax-related identity theft?
In short, a thief uses someone else’s social security number to file a fraudulent tax return and collect a refund. Then, when the real taxpayer files, he or she receives a notice from the IRS stating that a return has already been submitted under that social security number. If an identity thief beats you to the punch and files a phony return using your information, the remediation process can take at least six months, and usually even longer.
Ways to protect yourself
To avoid dealing with a fraudulent tax return, keep these important tips in mind:
Other key points
As you prepare for tax season, remember:
For more information, including ways to reduce your risk of tax-related fraud, visit the IRS’s Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft at www.irs.gov/uac/Taxpayer-Guide-to-Identity-Theft.
This material has been provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute either tax or legal advice. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a tax preparer, professional tax advisor, or lawyer.