Is Tax Season Also Identity Theft Season?

Jan 29, 2014

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There are two certain things in life: death and taxes. What’s very uncertain is who might be stealing your identity in an attempt to steal your tax return.

Tax identity theft occurs when another person filing a false tax return uses your Social Security Number to secure their false tax return without you knowing. By the time you file your taxes, you will be rejected for a return because IRS records will indicate that you’ve already received a refund.

This double filing is much more common than one might think; from 2011 to 2013, the IRS reportedly stopped 14.6 million suspicious returns.

The best way to prevent someone from stealing your identity is to protect your identity.  The following are four basic tips to keep your name and record clean during tax season:

1. Never disclose your Social Security Number unless it is absolutely necessary, such as applying for a loan or filing your taxes. If a website or retailer requests this information, ask why your Social Security Number is required (and don’t provide it under most circumstances.)

2. Always keep personal finance documents and past tax returns secure. Keep these types of documents in a locked filing cabinet or a locked safe.  Do not throw such documents in the trash without shredding them.

3. Your computer holds a lot more information about yourself than you’d care to know. Protect your person computer file by installing anti-virus software and installing a secure firewall. When online, use strong passwords/PIN numbers to prevent any breaches of your online information.

4. Monitor, monitor, monitor! Stay up-to-date on your credit reports and check for any unusual activity.  Your credit score is the first thing to go if your identity is compromised.

Each year, it becomes easier and easier for identity thieves to obtain personal information. Be cautious when filing your taxes and always remember that tax refunds are much better when you receive them.