3 Information Security Tips to Dodge Tax Fraud

security | January 09, 2017 | By Susannah McQuitty

A laptop with notebooks, folders, pencils and a calculator on a wooden table

We love tax season, but we also get that sending off your personal information can be intimidating. That’s why we make information security one of our top priorities, and we want to keep you up to speed on locking down your info as the taxpayer. Here are three ways to arm your personal information security as you file your taxes.

File early and as soon as possible

This is the simplest and best way to keep your tax identity, namely your Social Security Number (SSN), in the right hands – yours. The earlier you file, the less time thieves have to file a tax return using your name and SSN. Even if someone had already stolen your personal information, the IRS only accepts one tax return – any attempt to file with your info just wouldn’t work.

A wallet, iPad, and phone with the calculator app activated on a tile table

Don’t trust information requests

Here’s another simple defense that’s ironclad: The IRS never asks you to send or verify personal information through emails, phone calls, or texts. If they want to know something, they’ll send you a personal information request through the mail. Any electronic request for your info is automatically a no-go.

Now, if you do get a letter that looks like it’s from the IRS, that doesn’t mean it’s legit, either. Aggressive, threatening letters sent by scammers with official letterhead are meant to force your hand before you have time to suspect. If you aren’t sure, contact your local IRS office and ask them to help validate the request.

Also, here are some things the IRS will never do, from an IRS article on tax scammers:

  • Angrily demand immediate payment over the phone, or call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

A woman checks her phone while sitting beside a brick wall.

Suspicious? Let the IRS know

Maybe your wallet got stolen with your Social Security card inside (by the way, don’t keep your Social Security card in your wallet), or you try to file your taxes and the IRS informs you a return has already been filed with your SSN. If you think your SSN might be compromised, call the identity theft hotline immediately at (800) 908-4490. At best, you’ll be securing your tax information and putting the IRS on alert; at worst, you’ll catch the fraud early and minimize damage that could affect you for months, even years.

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