Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Keeping Your Tax Identity Safe

Posted by Rob Mahini, Policy Counsel

Once upon a time, Tax Day meant pens and pencils, paper forms, and long waits at the post office. Now, the Internet makes tax day much simpler -- online software and e-Filing now allows everyone a much smoother Tax Day experience. Unfortunately, the Internet also makes something else easier: tax identity theft that allows scammers to do things like file for fraudulent tax refunds or apply for jobs.

As the FTC noted earlier this month, "identity theft has been the top consumer complaint to the FTC for 13 consecutive years, and tax identity theft has been an increasing share of the Commission’s identity theft complaints." In fact, tax ID theft accounted for more than 43 percent of the FTC's ID theft complaints, "making it the largest category of identity theft complaints by a substantial margin."

With this in mind, the FTC hosted events around the country last week as part of its Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, to educate consumers about the risks of tax identity theft and how to avoid becoming a victim. The IRS also released a video this month to educate taxpayers on what to do if they are victimized by tax ID theft.

At Google's Good To Know site, consumers can learn about the many ways that they can protect all of their data, including their SSN, tax forms, and other information that tax identity thieves are after. For example:
  • Don’t reply if you see a suspicious email, instant message or webpage asking for your personal or financial information. Identity thieves try to use these phishing techniques to steal your information such as your social security number or other tax info. 
  • If you see a message from someone you know that doesn’t seem like them, their account might have been compromised by a cyber criminal who is trying to con you into providing your SSN or other sensitive information. 
  • Don’t send your password via email, and don’t share your password with others -- thieves that gain access to your accounts can then steal your tax identity. Legitimate sites won’t ask you to send them your passwords via email, so don’t respond if you get requests for your passwords to online sites.

The ease and convenience of the Internet has helped simplify tax filing. And following these tips will help keep your tax information safe in the process.

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