It’s officially tax season. As always, but especially during this time of the year, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself and your sensitive information.
Tax season is a common time when scammers may pose as the IRS, looking to scam you out of hundreds, even thousands of dollars. To combat this, Central Insurance Companies offers some tips on how to identify if you’re being contacted by the real IRS … or someone else:
- The IRS will almost always initiate contact through regular mail and does not initiate contact by email, text message, or social media to request personal or financial information.
- The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment.
- The IRS will not demand that you pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
- The IRS will not threaten to bring in law enforcement.
Read more tips with their article, IRS, Is It Really You?
In addition, it’s important to be in the know about general cyber security so that you can do as much as possible to prevent a fraudulent tax return from being filed in your name. There are certain steps you can take year-round to protect your identity from cyber criminals. OII member State Farm offers some tips for keeping your information secure:
- Don’t send
personally identifying information in email
Never email your credit card information, Social Security number, driver’s license number or other financial or identifying information — especially if your email is unencrypted. Email is an easy way for hackers to snatch sensitive information.
- Install antivirus
software and a firewall
Both are a great baseline in the battle against cybercrime; antivirus software detects malicious infections, while a firewall fends off outside access. Although a variety of free options exist, you may want to invest in a paid version that offers more updates.
- Check web
Any time you’re providing financial information, such as credit card numbers, double-check the web address: It should begin with “https” and display a padlock sign, meaning you are securely transmitting information. And remember, if you’re using a public network, your information is more vulnerable.
- Never click on
Cyberthieves are masters at creating emails that imitate trusted vendors and sites. If an email is asking to verify personal information, demanding money or promising a refund, visit the website directly or call its customer service line to check its legitimacy. If you hover over a hyperlink in an email, a phishing scam will often reveal an unusual URL or one with a slight misspelling.
Read more in their article, 6 Tips for Cyber Safety.
Central Insurance Companies also advises that the number one way to protect yourself from tax refund fraud is to file as early as possible. The longer you wait, the more time cybercriminals have to file under your stolen Social Security Number. On average, more than 2 million fraudulent tax returns are filed each year, and in 2016, employment and tax-related identity theft were the number-one form of identity theft. In their article, Protect Yourself from Tax Refund Fraud, Central talks about ways to prevent tax refund fraud as well as the steps to take should you become a victim.
Filing your taxes can be stressful enough without having to worry about getting your identity stolen. We want to ensure that you know how to protect yourself during tax season and all throughout the year, so you can make getting your tax return as smooth as possible. For additional information on tax-related identity theft, check out the article Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft from the IRS.