Is tax season your favorite time of year? Do you enjoy filling out those forms? The answer for most of us is a resounding "NO!" If your filing isn't complicated or you're getting a large refund, however, tax time may not be a big deal. Maybe you're like my wife and me. We're always relieved when everything has been filed and it turns out okay.
Unfortunately, for 260,000 Americans each year, tax season doesn't turn out okay. That's because they're the victims of tax identity theft, the fastest-growing crime in America. An easy tax filing can turn into a nightmare. According to Adam Levin, chairman and founder of CyberScout, formerly IDT911, tax identity theft is "caused by the tidal wave of useable data that has been or soon will be stolen by hackers.”
The most effective way for American taxpayers to protect themselves is through education. Be aware of the common scams criminals employ to obtain your personal information so you can be one step ahead of them. And NEVER give out personal information -- like bank account numbers, credit card numbers, or Social Security numbers -- to people you don't know and trust.
According to CyberScout, these are some of the scams criminals may use.
- Fake Bill. If you receive a letter, bill, or email indicating you owe taxes related to the Affordable Care Act, DISREGARD!
- The Bogus Tax. Here identity thieves demand payment for taxes that don't exist. An example is the “Federal Student Tax” which demands payment from college students. If you or your college student receive any requests for personal information related to this bogus tax, DISREGARD!
- Verification scams. If you receive an email asking you to verify the last four digits of your Social Security number, delete the email immediately. DO NOT click on the link provided! If somebody you don’t know asks for this information, it's a huge red flag. Check out the “10 Riskiest Places to Give Your Social Security Number” for information on how to protect your Social Security number.
- CEO scams. In this scam, an ID thief impersonates a company executive and tries to get access to your sensitive financial and personal data. Thieves may target a company’s human resources department or you directly. Pay close attention to what they're asking you to do. If they want you to share personal information by clicking on a link, don’t do it!
Remember, the IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment.
- Threaten to arrest you.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Demand you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question that amount or appeal.
To learn even more about protecting yourself, check out CyberScout’s document, “How to Avoid Tax Identity Theft Scams.” This thorough educational document outlines:
- How identity theft occurs;
- How to spot phishing emails;
- How to spot phishing phone calls; and
- How to protect yourself.
Do you have any tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them. Please share them in the box below.