By Evan Vitale
As if tax season isn’t stressful enough, it’s also prime time for identity theft.
“A thief who has your personal information can file a tax return before you do, collect a fraudulent refund and leave you waiting for many months to get your own refund and clear up this problem,” said Neil Chase, vice president of education at LifeLock.
Identity thieves use stolen Social Security numbers and other personal information in order to file false tax returns. Some of their methods include:
- Callers impersonating IRS agents calling victims and telling them they owed taxes and needed to pay by a wire transfer or by a prepaid card.
- Sending e-mails asking for personal information, social security numbers or birth dates.
- Untrusting employees at your doctor or dentist office asking for personal information.
If anyone asks for any personal information always ask them why they need it.
As we are now into full tax season, the Internal Revenue Service is working diligently with state tax authorities and the tax industry to address tax-related identity theft and refund theft. Stronger protections have already gone into place for this upcoming tax filing season. One of these changes will be new security requirements when you’re preparing your taxes online, especially when you sign in to your tax software account. Other changes will be invisible to taxpayers, but are in place to help federal, state and local tax offices.
Even with protections in place, the IRS doesn’t see processing time slowing down and plans on processing nine out of 10 federal refunds within 21 days.
To help protect yourself even further from identity theft, the IRS suggests the following tips:
- File as early as you possibly can. The IRS will start taking tax returns on January 31, 2016.
- Do not throw away financial statements, tax returns and other personal information in the trash. Instead, make sure these documents are properly shredded.