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5 Tips to Help Protect Your Identity During Tax Season

Some people dread tax season like no other time of year. While services like TurboTax have undoubtedly made filing for a refund easier than ever, the process of sifting through all of your finances and potential deductibles that accrued over the past 12 months can be annoying and stressful. Others love filing their taxes, if only for the promise of getting back a check for a few hundred, or even thousand dollars from the government.

Unfortunately, no one looks forward to tax season more than identity thieves. Over just the last few years, identity theft perpetrators have turned the months of January through April into one of the worst seasons for fraud.

Every year the Internal Revenue Service issues multiple warnings to alert Americans about the dangers to their identity and information surrounding tax season. While the IRS has stepped up its efforts to curtail this crime in the past few years — stopping $1.1 billion in fraudulent returns claimed by thieves on 171,000 tax returns, according to the IRS 2016 Security Summit.

More Americans could fall victim to fraud this year, not even realizing it until they’re notified that someone else has already filed their taxes under their Social Security number, and obtained their refund. To help prevent more fraudulent returns, the IRS has some recommendations for how you can help protect yourself from identity theft this tax season:

  • Secure sensitive paperwork: Social Security cards, W-2 forms and any document with your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) are identity theft gold. Carrying these forms around with you leaves you open to the risk of having them stolen or lost, and ending up in the wrong hands. Leave these documents at home instead, out of plain sight, locked safely away from prying eyes.
  • Refrain from handing out your personal information: Many people report receiving calls or emails from people who claim to be from the IRS, asking for your Social Security Number or other valuable pieces of personal data. The IRS has repeatedly stated that they do not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels. Generally, the IRS will first attempt to bill you through the mail, so be sure not to give out any money or payment via gift cards over the phone.
  • File early: Taxes can feel like a burden when you’re rushing to finish them at the last minute. However, if you file your taxes early, it can help stop thieves from filing a false return under you name or Social Security number. Also, filing early and taking your time to ensure that everything is entered properly can help you avoid making mistakes in the mad dash to April 17th.
  • Safeguard your computer: It should come as no surprise that many identity thieves double as hackers. Ensuring that your computer is up-to-date on its firewall, anti-virus and anti-malware protection is essential for minimizing your risk of becoming a cyberattack victim. Make sure that your online accounts are all set up with their own unique passwords too. That way, if a hacker gets their hands on the password to your Facebook profile, they won’t also have access to your email and bank account too. Use a password manager app to help you keep track of these many passwords secure, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting them or writing them down on an easily stolen slip of paper.
  • Review your credit reports: Checking your credit reports regularly can help you stay ahead of any potentially fraudulent activity happening on your credit file. The longer credit fraud occurs, the more havoc it can wreak. Staying aware by looking over your credit reports is key to minimizing any damage.

Of course, no matter how many security precautions you take when filing your taxes, there is always a chance that someone will file a fraudulent return anyway from information stolen in a data breach. This is where identity theft protection, like Identity Guard, can help. From detecting certain activity that may indicated fraud to providing continuous monitoring of your credit files, Identity Guard can alert you to potential theft and allow you to respond promptly.

When it comes to protecting your identity from fraud or theft, don’t settle for less than the best. Sign up with Identity Guard today.

IDB-IIC Federal Credit Union has partnered with Identity Guard® - Learn more about Identity Guard today


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