Tax season is never fun for anyone. I know I always get a little stressed when I have to do my taxes; however, I can’t imagine how stressful it must be for those who get cheated on their taxes.
These tax scams are always more likely to happen around this time of year, and I have some tips for you to avoid this nightmare.
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What is tax-related identity theft?
Tax-related identity theft is when a fraudster uses your personal information, such as your Social Security number, to file a fraudulent tax return on your behalf. They can use this information to open new credit cards or bank accounts, start a loan in your name, and more.
Tax fraud is on the rise and fraudsters are stealing your personal information. (CyberGuy.com)
These scammers can get your information in several ways. Some may send you phishing emails to trick you into clicking on links that claim to be from the IRS, while others will try to call you and get you to give your information over the phone.
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They have a lot of tricks up their sleeves, so it’s important to know the signs and take precautions beforehand.
What are some signs of identity theft to look out for?
If you go to do your confession electronically and the IRS warns you that someone filed your return using your Social Security number, then you’ve likely been a victim of identity theft.
Also, if you try to make a confession by mail and receive a letter from the IRS stating that they have received a return on your behalf, this may mean that your identity has been compromised.
Finally, if the IRS sends you a letter stating that you have created new online account, and you know you didn’t do this, that’s stealing your identity.
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5 things to do if you are a victim of identity theft
Report the crime to the Federal Trade Commission: The FTC is here to help track down scammers, and your report can help them keep track of how many scams occur in a single year so they can better warn others. You must also report the crime at identitytheft.gov.
Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit: This is the form that all victims of fraud must fill out for the IRS. This will know that the person claiming to be you is a fraud. You can find the form on the IRS website.
Request a copy of the fraudulent tax return from the IRS. You can do this by going to this page on the IRS website for dealing with fraudulent refunds and following the instructions for requesting a copy.
Alert national credit bureaus: Notify national bureaus like Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion that fraud has occurred and freeze your account so fraudsters can’t get to it.
Check your online bank accounts: Make sure there are no suspicious transactions in your accounts.
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How can you protect yourself from tax-related identity theft?
Use an IP PIN: This stands for the Identity Protection Personal Information Number, which is a unique six-digit code that taxpayers can use when filing their tax returns. That way, even if a fraudster gets hold of your Social Security number, they won’t be able to file a fraudulent tax return if they don’t have your IP PIN PIN.
Don’t fall for fake emails and calls: If the IRS has a problem with you, they will send you a certified letter in the mail. They will never contact you by phone call, text or email.
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Have good anti-virus software: The best way to protect yourself from clicking malicious links that install malware that can gain access to your private information is to install antivirus protection on all your devices. This can also alert you to phishing emails or ransomware scams. See my expert opinion on the best antivirus protection for your Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices by searching for “Best Antivirus” By clicking on the magnifying glass icon at the top of my site on CyberGuy.com.
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Use an identity theft protection service: Identity Theft companies can monitor personal information, such as your Social Security number, phone number, and email address, and alert you if it’s being sold on the dark web or used to open an account. They can also help you freeze your bank and credit card accounts to prevent further unauthorized use by criminals. One of the best parts of using an identity theft protection service like My Option 1 is identity theft insurance to cover losses and legal fees and a white glove fraud resolution team where a US-based case manager helps you recover your losses.
Learn more about my first choice by going to cyberguy.com/identitytheft.
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File early: The sooner you file your taxes, the better chance you have of outsmarting a fraudster by filing a false return.
Have you been a victim of tax-related identity theft? Tell us about your experience.
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Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson is an award-winning technology journalist with a passion for life-enhancing technology, equipment and gadgets with his early morning contributions to Fox News and FOX Business’ “FOX & Friends.” Have a technical question? Get Kurt’s CyberGuy newsletter, share your voice, a story idea or a comment on CyberGuy.com.