BOISE, Idaho — January 27 through January 31 marks Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week. National and regional events are planned, helping you find out how to keep your identity--and your money--safe as you file your taxes.
There are several steps you can take now to keep your identity safe. First, file as early as possible. January 27 marks the first day of filing for federal and state taxes, and the earlier you file, the safer your return will be. Tax scammers tend to spend more time in late March and early April looking to steal personal information so filing early is your best defense.
The IRS only allows one tax return per Social Security number so you want to make sure you get your return filed before a scammer has a chance to file. You can find out if your identity has been compromised by checking your credit report. If you notice something suspicious, it could be a sign a scammer has your Social Security number.
If you're filing your taxes online, make sure you have a security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. Do not use public WiFi; instead, use a private, password-protected connection. If you're getting rid of an old computer, either destroy the old appliance or wipe all applications clean to delete the data. Make sure you're also using a strong password with at least eight characters, including numbers, symbols, and both uppercase and lowercase letters.
It's also a good idea to adjust your withholding to lower your refund. Ideally, you want to have just enough withheld so your refund is as close to zero as possible. Not only does it protect your money, you'll also get more money in your paycheck year-round. Take that extra money and put it into a savings account or invest it. A new tax law means many of us are withholding the wrong amount. You can check that though an IRS Withholding Calculator here.
Several new tax scams are happening through phone calls. Callers usually claim your SSN will be suspended or canceled. The IRS will never call you and instead will make initial contact through a letter in the mail. After receiving a written notice, you may receive a phone call to discuss your situation or confirm a visit from an IRS employee.
The IRS will also never email, text, or contact you on social media. Always be suspicious of official-looking emails that seem to come from the IRS or your bank. Check the email address that's sending the information and don't click on any links.
If you think you're a victim of identity theft, contact the IRS as soon as possible. Document everything, and keep in contact with the IRS until the issue is resolved. You can also file an identity theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. You might also file a complaint with the local police, as well as contact the fraud departments of three major credit bureaus.
For more tips and tricks to remember this tax season, check out Premier Alliance Retirement Services.