The IRS and most states, combined with all of the various tax prep software and online services make it very easy to file a tax return. Too easy, really.
It’s great that people are able to fill in a few fields, click a button and wait for a refund, but identity thieves can do that too…in your name. The tax filing process needs some additional security to verify the identity of the person filing the return.
I wrote about the risk of identity thieves filing a fraudulent tax return as you in this blog post:
It’s tax season! You might not want to put off filing your taxes this year. If you’re not quick, you might find that someone else has already filed a fraudulent tax return in your name.
There are only a few things someone needs to file a tax return as you. Armed with your name, address, and Social Security number it’s relatively easy to file a tax return in your name. The details beyond that don’t matter too much, and the hacker can receive the refund dollars and have them spent before you even realize the fraudulent return was filed.
Here are four things you should do to guard against a fraudulent tax return being filed in your name, and to protect your credit and identity in general:
- File your returns as early as possible. Tax season began on January 31st and runs through April 15th. In order to prevent someone else from filing under your name, submit your tax returns as soon as possible.
- Watch out for phishing scams. If you receive an email or text message from the IRS asking for any personal information, do not reply nor click on any links. All correspondence originating from the IRS will be sent as a hard copy via snail mail and will never ask for such information over digital communications. Instead of replying, forward these messages to phishing@IRS.gov.
- Monitor your credit report. It is recommended that you check your credit report for suspicious activity at least twice a year. Spotting signs of identity theft before tax season rolls around can prevent headaches later on.
- Install comprehensive security software. Without the proper precautions set around your digital devices, cybercriminals may have access to your electronic tax forms, medical information, home lease, or other confidential documents that are intended for your eyes only. To keep your data and SSN out of the hands of fraudsters, install security software to protect your data and identity on all of your devices.
Gary Davis, chief consumer security evangelist for Intel Security, also suggests being vigilant about guarding your Social Security number in the first place. He urges consumers to exercise skepticism over which websites, companies, and corporations deserve access to your SSN. Davis says, “Do not provide it over the phone or via email, and leave it blank on forms when possible. If you have any doubts or feel uncomfortable providing it—always ask why the requesting party needs it or don’t give it out.”
For more about identity thieves filing fraudulent returns and what can be done to prevent tax fraud read the full story at PCWorld: Quick! File your taxes before a hacker does it for you.