December 5, 2015

Is Your Tax Refund Safe from Identity Theft?

It's tax time again and many of you are waiting for your refund checks to show up.  Unfortunately for many, they will not receive their tax refunds because of identity theft.  By using your social security number and other pieces of private information an identity theft is able to have the IRS send the refund check to them.  Essentially, they are doing your tax return for you while pretending they are you.

This might sound like it's a rare thing, but identity theft via tax refunds is on the rise.    In fact, 24% of all ID thefts are tax fraud crimes.  This is an alarming figure for the fastest growing crime in America.

During tax time your identity is more vulnerable than ever.  This is because there is so much information floating around about you.  You are being sent all kinds of private tax documents in the mail and having to send out documents as well, all of which contain valuable information to any identity thief.

So how do you keep yourself safe?  Here are a few tips below for keeping your ID and personal data safe from crooks that want to steal your tax refund this year:

  • Shred those documents.  You should be using a paper shredder as much as possible instead of  just throwing those private documents in the trash.  Many ID thefts still happen because of someone sifting through garbage so don't think that just because we have all of this technology now that those primitive methods are not still being used.
  • Protect your mail.  A locking mail box can help to protect your mail from being stolen by someone driving or walking by your house.  This is one of the most vulnerable areas to our identity.  When you think about how much crucial data is in your mail, you will want to make sure you guard it against anyone who wants to steal your ID and peace of mind.  By mailing our letters at the Post Office instead of your mailbox can help as well.  Especially when you are mailing our bill payments with you checks inside you should always use the Post Office.
  • Protect Your computer.  Be careful what you download onto your computer.  Make sure the program is safe and you have a good anti-virus program.  Viruses can easily lead to ID theft as they can find out your usernames and passwords to your email, bank accounts, and other sources.
  • Get a reputable tax preparer.  Using the right tax preparer makes a big difference.  Make sure you use someone you trust.  And also make sure that are professional.  They may be trustworthy but they might also be sloppy and make your information more vulnerable to attack.  Your tax information has all the info someone needs to take your ID so this is a crucial step to take.

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