Prevent Identity Theft During the 2015 Tax Season
Submitting taxes can be a complicated, stressful process, and the sheer volume of paperwork submitted to the IRS each year requires vigilance from accountants and taxpayers alike. As is common during times of financial flurry (like open enrollment and end-of-year holidays), identity thieves capitalize on hectic times of year by sneaking in when your guard is down. Taxpayers bear responsibility for accuracy of submitted tax returns, regardless of whether the return was prepared by an individual taxpayer or a tax preparer.
Identity thieves commonly use a person’s real Social Security Number to claim wages and file taxes, accepting that person’s deserved refund. Then, when the real Social Security Number owner files their taxes, the IRS refuses a refund because, according to the Agency, that person has already received their allotted money. One way to avoid tax fraud is to stay ahead of cybercriminals and file early. While filing early isn’t always possible, taxpayers can take precautions all tax season long.
Know how to spot a scam and protect yourself from tax fraud:
Validate Tax Preparers.
The confusion of filing tax returns often leads taxpayers to seek help from tax preparers when completing forms. Unfortunately, tax preparers are sometimes criminals in disguise. Never sign a blank tax form and avoid tax preparers who claim they can deliver a higher refund than others. Choose a well-known tax preparer in your city and ensure that he or she will be available even after the return is filed to answer outstanding questions.
Don’t Give Away Personally Identifiable Information.
While a smart practice year-round, it is especially important to keep personal information, like your Social Security Number, private during tax season. IRS posers or fake tax agencies may contact taxpayers claiming tax relief services in exchange for a Social Security Number and bank routing number. This is not common practice for legitimate tax entities and you should never volunteer personal information to strangers.
Maintain a Keen Eye for Scams.
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Fake emails and false phone calls, commonly known as “phishing scams,” trick taxpayers into thinking they are speaking with a real IRS representative. The IRS will never contact a taxpayer requesting Social Security Numbers, credit card numbers, bank accounts or any other personal information. If a taxpayer has any doubt whether a contact from the IRS is authentic, he should call the IRS customer service toll-free number (1-800-829-1040) to confirm it.
E-Filing is Safe, But Don’t Trust Everything You Find Online.
It is standard procedure to search for information online, and taxpayers may be tempted to do this for tax forms as well. However, malicious sites may be disguised as legitimate tax resources and could be infected with malware. Instead, download forms only from governmental sites like www.irs.gov. After your taxes are filed, save them to a flash drive and store in a safe place. You can also print your completed tax forms and store them securely.
Sign Up for MetLife Defender.
MetLife Defender helps protect you from identity, financial and medical fraud year-round, and may prove especially useful during times of increased risk. Try MetLife Defender free for 30 days and find out how it can help protect you from the full range of today’s online threats.
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