Whether you know you’ll owe Uncle Sam or are hoping for a refund, tax season can be stressful. It’s easy to be so focused on getting everything done correctly and on time, that you overlook identity theft risks that can arise during tax preparation.
It’s important to protect your identity when you file – both online or offline. Keep these important “do’s” and “don’ts” in mind:
- Research any paid preparer or tax-preparation software you’re thinking of using. While plenty of free help can be found online, scammers are also out there setting up fake websites and software downloads solely designed to bilk you out of your personal info during a vulnerable time.
- File online using a PC that’s protected with up-to-date anti-virus and anti-malware software, a firewall and password. Stick with a secure network connection for all online activity.
- Keep important tax documents in a locked, secure location and talk to your tax preparer about how he or she will protect your documents while preparing your taxes.
- Monitor your credit report and credit accounts before, during and after tax season. If your identity has been compromised, signs are most likely to appear on your credit profile first.
- Wait until the last minute if you can avoid it. Haste makes waste and procrastination can lead to panic. If you’re frantic to file, there’s more chance you’ll make a mistake or overlook something important.
- Respond to any email, text message or phone call from someone who says they’re with the IRS. The IRS says it NEVER contacts taxpayers through those means, and will only reach out to you via good old-fashioned U.S. post. If you receive a suspicious contact, call the IRS directly.
- Let letters linger in your mailbox. During January, important tax documents will arrive via the mail. Crooks know this and have been known to pluck data-rich forms from victims’ mailboxes as tax season approaches.
- Ask for a paper check if you’re due a refund. While it may be tempting to treat yourself to the thrill of touching money that the government is actually giving back, you can be sure crooks are watching mailboxes for opportunities to swipe refund checks. Direct deposit is more secure – and you’ll get your refund much faster!
This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.
Published by permission from ConsumerInfo.com, Inc. © 2014 ConsumerInfo.com, Inc. All rights reserved.