Hear that? It’s the collective sigh of relief coming from millions of Americans who are glad tax filing season finally ended last week. Enjoy your tax-filing conquest (and your refund spoils, if applicable), but don’t quite let your guard down. Unfortunately, fighting tax fraud can be a year-round effort. Fortunately, it’s easy to start taking these 6 precautions now.
Why now? Scammers start early
Criminals can use the rest of this year to work on stealing the identities needed to file fake returns early next year. With that step out of the way, they’ll be ready to collect refunds before taxpayers even realize what’s happened.
Start taking these 6 tax-fraud and identity theft precautions now:
1. Keep an eye on your credit. One of the best ways to stay on the lookout for identity theft is with a reputable credit monitoring service. With one, you can spot new & unfamiliar addresses, strange account activity, and other signs your identity may be in the wrong hands.
Don’t provide information to callers or emailers claiming they’re the IRS. If you receive a phone call or email from the IRS, it’s almost definitely not what it’s purporting to be. Hang up or delete the message because the IRS almost always uses physical mail to communicate with taxpayers.
Avoid sharing your Social Security number. Although businesses, physicians, dentists and other organizations may ask for your Social Security number, it is within your rights to decline providing it. Tell them you’d prefer to provide other forms of identification.
Leave tax-related ID cards at home. There’s no reason you should be carrying your Social Security card around or keeping your Taxpayer Identification Number in your wallet or purse. Secure that information in a safe place at home and bring it with you only when absolutely necessary.
Protect your computer and sensitive online information. Keep your virus-detection software up to date. Use strong passwords with symbols and numbers in addition to letters. If you struggle to remember passwords, use a password manager.
Remind yourself to file in January. Make sure you mark January as tax-filing month in your calendar, organizer or whichever other planning tool you use. That way, you’ll be ready to get to your refund before scammers might.
Protecting against identity theft and tax fraud is a year-long effort. But by taking these easy precautions now, you’ll have a strong defense against many scammers who, unlike tax-filing procrastinators, prepare for tax season ahead of time.
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