Imagine that you file your taxes, only to receive a notice stating that you’ve already filed and collected your refund. Your refund has been delivered to someone else’s bank account, who filed a return using your information.
Or, you receive a refund from the IRS, even though you haven’t yet filed your return. Days later, you answer a phone call from someone who claims to be from the IRS. This person tells you that there has been a mistake, and you must wire the money back to “the IRS” immediately, or face a possible punishment.
These are just two of the more common tax fraud schemes that happen each year. During the spring, we’re all in a rush to finish our taxes and get a refund if one is due. But don’t let yourself get careless at this time, or you could fall victim to tax fraud.
The following ten tips can help you stay safe:
- File your tax return early in the season, to “get ahead” of anyone who might try to file a fraudulent one using your information
- Visit the IRS website and request a one-use PIN code that you will use to file your taxes
- When sending documents digitally, use a secure file transfer service
- Don’t store sensitive data on your computer or any other device that is connected to the internet; move that information to an external drive instead
- Erase any hard drives, phones, or other devices before discarding or recycling them
- Never open links or PDF files in emails without first verifying them with the sender
- When submitting PDF files digitally, use the password function
- Never submit documents to anyone without first verifying their identity and/or the correct fax number or email
- Don’t give out sensitive information over the phone; the IRS will not call you about your return
- Be on guard at all times; scammers can create fake emails that appear legitimate, and they can trick your Caller ID into displaying “IRS” or “US Government”
Remember that the burden of communication is on you. Since the IRS will not call or email you, it’s up to you to report any suspicious activity. If you receive a refund that you were not due, or if you suspect any other unusual activity related to your taxes or identity, contact them first.
If you need any other assistance regarding financial planning or keeping yourself safe, call our office and we can answer your questions.