**Originally published January 29, 2018. Updated February 3, 2020.**
If you’re like most people, chances are you haven’t begun to think about taxes yet. Employers aren’t even required to issue W-2 forms until January 31. However, now is the time to begin your preparations and protect yourself, your friends and family from tax identity theft.
February 3-7, 2020, is Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week. Hosted annually by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), this week aims to raise awareness and reduce one of the most prominent forms of identity fraud, tax identity theft, often executed through the fraudster favorite, IRS imposter scams. Call center data from the Identity Theft Resource Center reported that government and tax identity theft made up 34% of all reported cases in 2017. This is a staggering number that none of us can afford to ignore.
Throughout Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week the FTC will offer free resources to help educate consumers, including webinars, blog posts, a Twitter chat and more. In the meantime, our fraud protection experts at IdentityForce have compiled a simple list of 5 tips to protect yourself and those you care about this tax season.
- File Your Return as Early as You Can
Tax season is a race against the clock for identity thieves. By completing your tax return as soon as you have all your information in order, you stand a better chance of beating a fraudster to your return.
- Never Send Sensitive Information via Email or Text
IRS scammers will often mask themselves with emails or caller ID that looks legitimate. They reach out to you and request personal information that will allow them to file a tax return on your behalf. Do not be fooled – the IRS never contacts taxpayers by these methods of communication.
- Know and Trust Your Tax Preparer
If you decide to bring your taxes to a walk-in preparer, be sure to do your research and confirm they are qualified to handle your data. Illegal identity theft rings pop up in brick and mortar locations every year. Ask for a Preparer Tax Identification Number and don’t trust your information to anyone without verifying their CPA status.
- If Filing by Mail, Bring Your Return Directly to the Post Office
Many taxpayers prefer to fill out their tax forms manually and file by mail. While this method is generally safe, it’s important to never mail the return from your home mailbox. It’s best to be 100% safe as mail tampering is still a major source of identity theft.
- Confirm Any Requests for Information with a Phone Call
Although a notice in the mail may seem legitimate, it’s relatively easy for fraudsters to set up phony direct mail campaigns and victimize consumers. Always confirm any request by calling the IRS toll-free number: 800-829-1040.
By following these tips, you can help minimize your risk of becoming an identity theft victim. Be sure to share this article with your friends and loved ones in honor of Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week.
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