It’s the time of year when we scramble to gather our W-2s to file taxes before the April 17 individual income tax deadline.
Unfortunately, identity thieves also are scrambling to gather your personal information to file fraudulent tax returns. How can you prevent an identity thief from stealing your refund? Below are a few helpful tips on protecting your identity this tax season:
Store your personal information and financial documents in a safe place. Avoid carrying your Social Security card with you and keep financial documents in a secure location.
Be aware of impersonators. Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you are sure you know with whom you are dealing.
Safely dispose of personal information. Shred receipts, bank statements, checks and other documents with personal information when you are done using them.
Check your credit report annually. You can check your credit report every 12 months for free by contacting the three credit report agencies – Experian, Equifax and Trans Union.
Protect your personal computers. Use firewalls and anti-spam/virus software and update security patches to keep your personal information safe online. Do not give access to your computer to anyone that calls you.
Remember, identity thieves are professional criminals and are skilled at finding ways to steal your personal information. There are a few more tips on the IRS website.
The IRS will never call your home without mailing you a notice first, call to demand immediate payment, or require you to use a specific payment method (such as an electronic check). If you receive a call that involves any of these tactics, hang up and report the call to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.