Tax season can be stressful, with a lot of information to prepare and organize in order to file your taxes. The last thing you might be thinking about during this time is your information being taken and your return going to someone who stole your identity.
Here are some tips and strategies to protect your identity online and what to do if the worst happens.
How to Keep Your Tax Return Secure
Many individuals might wonder how exactly these people can steal secure information and file fake tax returns, but the ways in which scammers get the information can be quite common. Keeping your identity secure can mitigate risk and avoid going through the challenges of recovering from identity theft.
Here are some ways to keep your information safe and out of the hands of tax scammers:
Step 1: Keep Your Social Security Number Private
Not only should you avoid keeping your SSN with you as you go about your day, but avoid sharing it unless absolutely necessary. Put your card in a secure place like a safe so that it won’t fall into the wrong hands.
Step 2: Take Charge of Your Online Security
One easy way to keep your identity safe online, where many scammers gain information, is to create strong passwords.
The good news is you don’t have to be super tech-savvy to do this! Use upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols and don’t forget to change them regularly.
In order to avoid online identity phishing scams, be wary of unexpected emails from sources you don’t recognize and don’t click links in these emails. This can keep your information from getting into the wrong hands.
Lastly, take advantage of your computer’s firewall and security software to aid in information protection.
Step 3: Keep Financial Information Out of Harm’s Way
Although you likely don’t leave bank statements out in public or actively find ways to put your information out there for scammers to find, it can happen anyway.
Some ways you can guard your financial information include shredding secure documents; avoiding actively giving information over the phone to callers you don’t recognize; and taking steps to reduce the number of solicitations you receive by mail.
Even though these tactics are not 100% foolproof, they can help you stay one step ahead of scammers who wish to use your information against you.
How To Recover from Tax Return Identity Theft
Even if you do the right thing and keep your financial information as secure as possible, you may experience identity theft—specifically, someone could use your information to file a tax return and take your tax refund before you know what is happening.
You may find out that someone has committed identity theft and received your tax refund when the IRS sends you a notice or letter about someone using your SSN. Once you receive the letter (called a Letter 4883C) do the following:
- Call the number the IRS provides in the letter. You have 30 days after the letter is received to verify your identity with the IRS.
- Have your letter and the prior year’s tax return information ready in order to verify who you are.
- If the customer service representative at the IRS is unable to verify your identity, you may visit an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center at an office near you. You will be required to provide additional identification, such as your driver’s license.
- In some cases, people may receive a notice about a suspiciously filed tax return, even if they did in fact file it themselves. If this has happened to you, bring your tax return and the notice
- Once your identity is verified and you share with the IRS whether or not you filed the return, one of two things can happen:
- If you did not file the return, the IRS will remove the false return from your records. You may have to file a paper return for the filing period in order to receive your refund.
- If you did file the return, the hold on your return will be released and the return will be filed as normal.
After these steps, the IRS may place you into the Identity Protection PIN program to combat future identity theft. The Identity Protection PIN program provides you with a new pin every year to be used when filing your taxes.
Sometimes the IRS does not catch that a tax return was filed fraudulently. However, if you send in an e-filed return only to have it rejected or receive notification that your return is a duplicate, then you need to take steps to tell the IRS you were a victim of tax-related identity theft.
If your e-filed return does not go through, file a paper return as well as a Form 14039 (an Identity Theft Affidavit). The affidavit will trigger the Theft Victim Assistance (IDTVA) organization to begin the process of reviewing your account and send you an acknowledgement letter so you know it is in progress. The IDTVA usually solves most cases in 120 days, but complex cases may take longer (180 days or more).
Following this, you may be entered into the Identity Protection PIN program just as you would have been if the IRS flagged your return for possible identity theft.
Contact Bank of Old Monroe
At Bank of Old Monroe, we put your financial security at the forefront of everything we do. Contact us today to set up a personal checking account or start a business account!