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Tax Identity Theft Is Real: How to Protect Yourself + Lutz Outsourced Accounting

Tax Identity Theft Is Real: How to Protect Yourself

PAM RILEY, TAX & CLIENT ACCOUNTING SERVICES DIRECTOR
 
Tax season is in full swing. Are you doing what you can to keep your confidential data safe? You’ve been struggling with your income taxes for a couple of days, and you happily click the button to efile them. Instead of getting a message that says your return has been accepted and is being processed, you learn that a return has already been filed using your Social Security number. Despite the fact that the IRS has stepped up its efforts to stop tax identity theft and kept billions of dollars from being paid out in fraudulent refunds, billions of taxpayer dollars are still being sent to thieves. Can you avoid being a victim? There are certainly things you can do to protect yourself. Some are just common sense. If you’re preparing your return on a smartphone or tablet, do not do so using a public Wi-Fi network. Even if you’re on a secure network or cellular connection, make sure no one is peeking over your shoulder.

Here are other steps you can take:

  • File early.
  • Opt for direct deposit of your refund. Don’t risk having someone steal your check from your mailbox or re-route a paper payment.
  • Filing offline? If you’re carrying tax-related papers around with you, be sure they stay in your possession. Don’t leave them in your car or on your desk at work.
  • This has been said many times, but it bears repeating: The IRS will not send you an email requesting personal information. The agency generally contacts taxpayers through the U.S. Mail. Don’t fall prey to this email phishing scam.
  • Neither will the IRS call you and demand payment, threatening action against you if you don’t comply. Another scam.
  • Don’t give out your Social Security number without confirming the identity of the party requesting it and learning why it’s needed.
  • Consider adjusting your withholdings so you don’t receive a large refund in the first place.
  • Never carry your Social Security card around with you. Keep it in a lockbox at home.
  • If you’re preparing your return on your desktop or mobile device, find out what you can about the publisher’s security protocols. Make sure your computer’s browser and antivirus/anti-malware software are updated.
  • You’d be surprised how many people still use PASSWORD1 as their password. Make sure yours is a good, strong one.

If You’re Hit

Remember, too, that once they have your Social Security number and other personal information, identity thieves can move on to other crimes, like opening credit cards and applying for government benefits. So, take swift action if you learn you’ve been a victim. Complete IRS Form 14039, and respond immediately to correspondence from the agency. Contact credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit records, and let your other financial institutions know what’s going on. File a report with the FTC. Recovering from identity theft can be a lengthy, stressful process. Contact us if you need expert help with this or any other area of tax preparation and planning.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

402.827.2074

priley@lutz.us

LINKEDIN

PAM RILEY + TAX & CAS DIRECTOR

Pam Riley is a Tax & Client Accounting Services Director at Lutz with over 20 years of experience. Her primary focus is delivering tax and client accounting services to closely held businesses, entrepreneurial and start-up companies.

AFFILIATIONS AND CREDENTIALS
  • American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Member
  • Nebraska Society of Certified Public Accountants, Member
  • Certified Public Accountant
EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND
  • BSBA, Creighton University, Omaha, NE
COMMUNITY SERVICE
  • Memorial Community Health, Inc., Board Member
  • Christian Education Committee, Past Member
  • Aurora United Methodist Church, Finance Committee, Past Member

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