Thousands of Americans are eligible to receive refunds from Uncle Sam in 2014, and it’s not just Certified Public Accountants that will be busy; tax season is primetime for identity thieves. With all of the personal information contained in tax documents, cons will try every trick in the book to obtain these documents in order to get Social Security numbers and intercept refunds.
According to the IRS, nearly 1,500 tax identity theft related criminal investigations were launched in 2013 – an increase of 66 percent from 2012. To protect consumers, the IRS, FTC and BBB have expanded efforts to educate taxpayers and help victims.
Avoid becoming a victim of tax identity theft:
• File tax returns early.
• Don’t leave W-2s in unsecure locations like offices or cars; shred copies of leftover tax information, drafts, or calculation sheets that are no longer needed.
• Use secure Internet connections when filing electronically, or mail tax returns directly from the post office.
• Respond to all mail from the IRS as soon as possible.
• Never disclose Social Security numbers – SSNs – or other sensitive personal information over the phone to unsolicited callers.
• Thoroughly research tax preparers at bbb.org to find ones that are local and accredited.
• If personal information is compromised, take immediate proactive steps to recover:
1) Contact the IRS ID Theft Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.
2) Place freezes on credit reports; continue to monitor credit by obtaining free reports from each of the three credit bureaus at annualcreditreport.com.
Remember, the Internal Revenue Service will never initiate contact by email, text or social media; if information is needed, the organization will make contact and clearly verify the identities of contactors.
For more information on identity theft and additional tips on how to combat scams, check out the BBB News Center and the FTC’s Identity Theft Guide.