The beginning of tax season also brings us Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week.
Because every year thieves and scammers use other people’s tax IDs to file tax returns and commit other fraud.
So every year the IRS tries to raise awareness of these scams, how to avoid them, and what to do if you think you’re a victim of one.
Two common scams are Tax ID Theft and IRS Imposter scams.
In this scam, somebody uses your Social Security Number or other tax ID. This person may:
After this happens you may get a letter telling you multiple tax returns were filed under your name. Or your Social Security Statement may show wages you didn’t earn.
How do these scammers get your tax ID? There are lots of ways:
And the IRS will never ask for identifying information by email or phone. Don’t be fooled!
Here scammers pretend to be IRS agents. These calls usually follow a format like this:
Of course, once they have your money they vanish. There’s rarely any way to trace them or get your money back.
Many people get scammed because these fast talkers don’t give you time to think. They just scare you into acting quickly.
They may even know your Social Security number, so it seems legitimate. Or they spoof their phone numbers so your caller ID makes it look like it’s really the IRS calling.
But it’s not. The IRS won’t:
The IRS is still mostly old school. They’ll send you mail the old-fashioned way: By regular, boring postal mail. And in this case that’s a good thing!
If you get one of these calls, report it:
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The first thing to always do is protect your tax ID. Only give it to businesses that legitimately need it, like banks and medical professionals. And only when you’ve contacted them.
If you’re not sure why someone wants your ID, ask! If it seems unnecessary, ask if they can use a different number.
The next best way to avoid letting someone else get a tax return in your name is to file your own return early.
And follow these simple tips when you do file:
For electronic filing, always send your return over a secure connection. This usually means home or work. Never a public spot like your favorite coffee shop.
For paper returns, mail them from the post office. Preferably inside.
Shred any extra copies of your return or other supporting documents. Of course you want to keep a copy of everything for your records, but if you have any paperwork you don’t need, shred it.
Also, remember the IRS always sends out requests for more information by mail. Snail mail, not email. It also won’t call or contact you on social media.
Scroll down for some ideas on observing this unofficial but financially important week.
Learn all you can about these scams and help spread the word!
Check out the FTC’s daily events during Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week. The bottom of the page even includes sample tweets, blog posts, and logos you can use.
The FTC’s Privacy, Identity & Online security section has information on protecting kids online, limiting unwanted emails, and more.
Another good source of information is IdentityTheft.gov. This site offers a variety of resources, including:
It’s also a good idea to remember to check your credit reports each year. You’re entitled to one free report from each bureau every year. The easiest way to get them is at annualcreditreport.com.
Tax ID Theft and IRS Imposter Scams aren’t the only scams around. The FTC’s Scam Alert page lets you know about other recent scams making the rounds. Some are new and other are old scams resurfacing.
So, will you be helping to spread the word about Tax ID Theft and other scams this tax season?
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