This tax season, be extra-careful with your personal information, because criminals could be targeting you for identity theft.
And not just your garden-variety identity theft either. With millions of tax returns being transmitted by mail and via the Internet, tax identity theft can also cause problems, as Forbes recently reminded us.
How does tax identity theft work? And what tricks are identity thieves using to get your tax information and other personal data?
In a typical tax identity theft scheme, scammers use an innocent party's stolen tax information to file false returns and false refund claims.
In some cases, they use stolen Social Security numbers when they work at a job. This results in wages and income being reported by someone other than the person earning the wages.
Here are three ways criminals commonly go after your information during tax season:
- Your Social Security number. Thieves can physically steal your Social Security card from your purse or wallet. But sometimes, you give out your SSN for what appears to be a valid and secure transaction, only to end up the victim of identity theft. Take, for example, the case of a data entry clerk at an IRS service center who actually stole paper tax returns and used the information, according to Forbes. Dishonest tax preparers have also been prosecuted.
- Direct contact via email or Facebook. Another way scammers can get your information is by contacting you directly, pretending to the be from the IRS. The IRS has made it clear that it does not use text messages, social media or send emails to communicate.
- Fake websites. Finally, scammers have set up false websites, purporting to be IRS websites. Websites belonging to the IRS begin with www.irs.gov.
While you can't prevent all scammers from getting your information, you can keep an eye out for suspicious activity. If the IRS sends you a letter informing you of possible ID theft, take it seriously.
Tax identity theft can be reported at the IRS Identity Theft Protection Page. The IRS also has a hotline for identity protection at (800) 908-4490.
- Steps You Should Take in Preventing Identity Theft (FindLaw)
- Tips to Help Protect Your Identity (FindLaw)
- Sheriff Joe Arpaio Falls Victim to Identity Theft (FindLaw's Injured)
- The FindLaw Guide to Online Fraud and Identity Theft (FindLaw - Free Download)