Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week

Happy Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week

Just in case the sensitive document shredding measures you adopted on Data Privacy Day (January 28) obscured other notable holidays, January 25, 2021, marked the beginning of Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week (TITAW). And it’s never too late to celebrate and practice recommended data protection procedures.

Hosted annually by the Federal Trade Commission, TITAW aims to raise awareness for the most prominent form of identity fraud: tax identity theft. In the process, the federal agency hopes that you exercise the utmost care in reducing IRS scams.

What is tax identity theft? According to the FTC, “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 real tax return and the IRS rejects it as a duplicate filing.”

To help you protect yourself this tax season, the FTC offers these best practices tips:

  • Protect your social security number, giving it only if you’re sure the recipient has a legitimate reason to access it.
  • File your tax return as early in the tax season as possible This reduces the chance that someone else can successfully file a return in your name.
  • Secure the Wi-Fi that you use to file your return electronically. Unprotected networks are vulnerable to cyber-attacks and data theft. When setting up your network — home or business — make sure that it’s password protected. Most routers are preset with a password; if so, change it to a code that is unique and not used by your online accounts. Also, most routers today have encryption capabilities (WPA2 is one of the most effective). Make sure that yours is turned on (curiously, many are turned off by default). You should also consider using a virtual private network (VPN), which adds additional security protection.
  • If you file by mail, consider bringing your return directly to the post office. This reduces the possibility of mail tampering.
  • Work with established tax preparers or those that you know personally before handing over your personal financial information.
  • Check your credit report periodically, making sure that there are no errors and that no one has opened an account in your name. NOTE: You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report annually from the three major credit reporting companies, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
  • Do not transmit sensitive information via email or text. Tax identity fraudsters often reach out to consumers requesting personal information, which allows them to file a return in your name. The IRS never contacts taxpayers via email or text.

Finally, always confirm any suspicious written requests for your information by calling the IRS: 800-829-1040. By following these basic tips, you have the potential of reducing the risk of becoming a victim of tax identity theft.

Visit: What To Know About Tax Identity Theft | FTC Consumer Information for more on Tax Identity Theft.

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