Tax identity theft remains one of the top scams listed on the IRS “Dirty Dozen” list and, although safeguards put in place by the agency in 2016 did reduce the number of fraudulent tax returns processed last year, large-scale data breaches that exposed hundreds of millions of American’s personal and financial information have drastically increased the risk that identity theft and tax fraud will occur in 2018. Tax return preparer fraud also remains a concern as dishonest preparers often surface this time of year to target unsuspecting victims and use their personal information to conduct tax refund fraud and identity theft.
Here are the best ways to avoid tax identity theft:
•File your tax return as early as possible.
•Use a secure internet connection to file electronically, or mail your tax return directly at the post office.
•Never respond to emails, texts, or social media communications claiming to be from the IRS. The IRS will only contact you by mail. Report any suspicious or unsolicited emails claiming to be sent from the IRS to email@example.com.
•Never provide personal information to anyone purporting to be an IRS representative who contacts you via an unsolicited telephone call. Instead record the caller's name, badge number and a call back number. Hang up and then contact the IRS at 1-800-366-4484 to determine if the caller is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you. Also, remember that the IRS will never call demanding immediate payment of taxes owed or a specific method of payment, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer.
•Monitor your credit report to verify there is no unauthorized activity.
•Enroll in the IRS Identity Protection Pin (IP PIN) program to obtain a 6-digit pin.