Data Security: 6 Ways to Protect Yourself at Tax Time

Posted  March 29, 2018  by  Shred-it

Every year around this time, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) warns consumers about tax fraud – and it’s no different this tax season. 

About 16.7 million U.S. consumers were victims of identity fraud in 2017 with the amount stolen rising to $16.8 billion, according to a Javelin Report.

Tax fraud is widespread because cyber criminals only need a name, date of birth, and Social Security number to file a fraudulent tax return.

This year, experts also point to the 2017 Equifax data breach, which affected up to 143 million people in the U.S., Canada, and Britain. Social Security numbers were among the data exposed, and criminals may use them to file fraudulent tax returns.

How to Protect Your Identity and Tax Return

File Taxes Early

Filing taxes early may reduce the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft-related tax fraud. When you file first, an identity thief who has stolen your ID can't file and claim the tax refund too.

Learn to Detect a Fake IRS Agent

Phishing is the number one scam on the IRS’s 2018 Dirty Dozen List of Tax Scams. At tax time, unsolicited phishing emails, texts, and social media posts will arrive from ‘fake’ IRS agents requesting personal and financial information. One scam to watch for: after a criminal steals personal data, files a return, and has the refund sent to you (direct deposit or a check), he contacts you claiming to be from the IRS or a collection agency and says the refund was an IRS error and it should be returned immediately. Watch for direct deposits or checks in the mail you weren't expecting and contact the IRS if it occurs. Also, don’t respond to these requests. The IRS would never initiate contact with taxpayers via email this way.

Be Cautious of IRS Phone Scams

Fraudsters impersonate IRS agents by phone too, demanding that a taxpayer pay a (false) tax bill immediately over the phone – or be arrested, deported and suffer another penalty. Since the government started tracking fake IRS telephone scams 5 years ago, 12,400 victims have paid more than $61.6 million dollars to scammers. If you receive a call, hang up and contact the IRS directly. 

Verify the Credentials of Your Tax Professional

More than half of U.S. taxpayers have someone else prepare their tax return – but ‘return 'preparer' fraud’ is also on the Dirty Dozen list of tax scams. What happens is criminals will set up a temporary tax return service shop to commit refund fraud. Always check the credentials of your tax person. Avoid anyone whose fee is based on a percentage of the refund, or who immediately promises a refund

Be Aware of Phishing Email Scams in the Workplace

Some workplace phishing scams target payroll or HR in an attempt to get employee tax forms and other information. Cyber criminals often do this by posing as an executive in a company in an email, for example, and requesting copies of the tax forms. The corporate data security policy should address workplace processes for protecting confidential data.

Keep Your Confidential Information Secure

Before, during and after tax season protect your confidential information and credentials. Securely destroy personal information on paper and on hard drives, when it is no longer needed.

Protect Yourself During Tax Season

To learn more about how Shred-it can help you to protect your confidential information during tax season, visit our Resource Center.

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