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February 23, 2015 Lawrence 'D' Pew

10 Tips on how to protect your identity and prevent fraud during tax season

Not only do taxpayers have the fear of owing money instead of receiving a refund after filing for taxes every year, but now there is more fear than ever about identity theft and tax fraud.

Identity thieves typically file fraudulent tax returns early in order to beat taxpayers to the punch. Not only is it terrifying to find out that someone has stolen your identity, but it can take up to a year to receive your tax refund if someone has committed fraud using your information.

Most taxpayers who are targeted for identity theft and tax fraud are not bad about keeping their information private.

“Often times, these are innocent taxpayers who don’t even know they’ve been victimized,” said U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade.

Identity thieves hack into computer systems or paper files from employers or educational institutions. They are also known to con taxpayers into revealing personal information over the phone. Thieves may also steal personal and financial information out of the dumpster or even mailboxes to commit fraud. Most people committing tax fraud target a large batch of identities at once.

They have been known to break into cars in the parking lot of gyms, as people usually tend to lock their wallets in their vehicles while working out. They won’t steal the wallets, though. They will just write down your credit card information as well as your social security number and leave the wallet where they found it. This way, the taxpayer has no idea their information has been stolen and is usually oblivious to it.

A major indicator that your identity has been stolen is if the IRS notifies you that someone has already filed a tax return under your name by using your information. Another red flag is if the IRS calls you regarding wages from a place where you are not employed.

Here are 10 tips to protect your identity and prevent tax fraud:

1. Do not fall for common scams. Emails and phone calls that are from the “IRS” requesting personal tax information in order to receive a refund are a scam. The IRS will never contact taxpayers through email or social media to request personal information. Please forward all scam emails to phishing@irs.gov and report all suspicious phone calls to 1-800-366-4484.

2. Keep your Social Security Card at home and in a safe place. Refrain from keeping the card in your wallet, as it can be easily accessible to others.

3. Check your credit report annually. By doing so, you will be able to spot any suspicious activity.
4. Protect your personal computer by using anti-virus software and firewalls. Also make sure to change your passwords regularly.

5. Do not comply if a tax preparer asks you to sign a blank tax return.

6. Avoid preparing your tax return online if you are using wifi at a public place such as coffee shop, college campus, or hotel.

7. Make sure to delete all photos you have of your W-2 forms, in the case that you had to take photos to submit though a tax application online.

8. Do not keep any of your tax paperwork in your car, on your desk, or on any counter in your home. May sure to keep them tucked away so thieves do not have easy access to them.

9. Keep track of your social security earnings statement each year and if you discover that the number is off, make sure you contact the IRS immediately.

10. Keep your social security number private and only give it out if you are sure of who is asking. Be wary of suspicious phone calls and if you ever feel uncomfortable, do not give out your SSN.

The best way to prevent tax fraud and keep your identity safe is to file your tax return early. By doing so, you take away the opportunity for identity thieves and hackers to file a return in your place.

As always, we are here to help you. We can prepare your tax return quickly and accurately. Click here to fill out our contact us form or Call 480-745-1715 today!

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