It’s tax season! For tax scammers, tax season
equals ill-gotten gains. Tax refund fraud victims usually first learn of the
crime after having their returns rejected because scammers beat them to it.
Even those not required to file a return and those not due a refund can be
victims of refund fraud. It takes so little to file a false return – just your
name, date of birth and Social Security number, all of which could have been
compromised during the 2017 Equifax breach or numerous breaches since then.
The IRS recommends filing your taxes as soon as possible as the best defense against fraud. You should have received all your supporting tax information by now, so get to it!
Before you file:
- Keep your eye on your information!
- Don’t carry your Social Security card or other information containing your Social Security number (SSN) with you.
- Don’t give businesses your SSN just because they ask for it. Give it only when required.
- Take a look at your Social Security earnings statement each year. If that number is off, you need to investigate.
- Two of the most common ways to steal sensitive data are dumpster diving and mail theft. Invest in a crosscut shredder and a lockable mailbox to help eliminate those risks.
- Help protect the personal information on your computer by using firewalls and anti-virus software, updating your computer with security patches, and changing your passwords regularly.
- Do not email your W-2 or any other confidential information. Email is the equivalent of a postcard; everyone can see it. If you must send your SSN over email, encrypt it with a product like 7-Zip or use the encryption in Microsoft Word and Excel and in Adobe PDFs.
Next week, the second of this three-part series, will include tips on how to avoid fraud when you are ready to file. If you have any questions, please contact LCC director of information security Paul H. Schwartz at email@example.com.