To avoid dealing with a fraudulent tax return, keep these important tips in mind:
File as early as possible. The faster you act, the less time an identity thief has to file a tax return in your name.
Stay secure. If you’re filing online, use a secure Internet connection. If filing by mail, don’t just drop your return in the mailbox; bring it to the post office instead.
Shred it. Be sure to shred any mail and other documents containing personal or financial data. (Thieves are known to rummage through trash looking for this type of information.)
Safeguard your data. Whether online, over the phone, or by mail, don’t provide your personal information unless you initiated the contact. If you receive a message asking for personal information, call that entity on a verified number to confirm that the request is legitimate.
Consider enrolling in an identity theft protection service. Beyond typical credit monitoring, these services can track your personal information across the Internet and public databases, alert you to suspicious activity, and provide an insurance policy to repair damage in the event your identity is stolen.
As you prepare for tax season, remember:
The IRS will never contact you via e-mail, and it very rarely contacts taxpayers by phone.
If you receive a mail notification from the IRS, call your local IRS branch for additional information.
Be especially vigilant, not only at tax time but year-round, about how and with whom you share your sensitive information.
If you do become a victim of identity theft, report it immediately to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov and follow the steps at www.identitytheft.gov.
For more information, including ways to reduce your risk of tax-related fraud, visit the IRS’s Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft at www.irs.gov/uac/Taxpayer-Guide-to-Identity-Theft.