Don't get scammed: tips to prevent tax-related identity theft
In addition to longer and brighter days, February brings with it the dawning of tax season. Feb. 2-7 is Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, an awareness effort brought to you by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and its partners.
Identity thieves and IRS imposters are ready for tax season, whether you are or not. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself, and what to do if you or someone you know runs into problems.
What is tax identity theft? It happens when someone uses your Social Security number (SSN) to file a phony tax return and collect your refund. You may not find out it has happened until you try to file your tax return and the IRS rejects it as a duplicate filing.
IRS imposters are scammers who pretend they’re calling from the IRS. They claim you owe taxes and demand that you pay right now, usually with a gift card or prepaid debit card. They threaten you’ll be arrested or face other bad consequences if you don’t pay. But it’s all a lie. If you send the money, it’s gone.
The FTC has many resources to inform and educate taxpayers. To learn more, read their article on Tax-Related Identity Theft and visit IdentityTheft.gov for resources to help you avoid and respond to identity theft scams.
To start fighting tax identity theft right away, remember:
- Protect your SSN throughout the year. Don’t give it out unless there’s a good reason
and you’re sure who you’re giving it to.
- File your tax return as early in the tax season as possible.
- Use a secure internet connection if you file electronically, or mail your tax return
directly from the post office.
- Research a tax preparer thoroughly before you hand over personal information.
- Check your credit report at least once a year for free at annualcreditreport.com. Make sure no one has opened a new account in your name.