10 Ways You Can Avoid Identity Theft This Tax Season

Identity thieves love stealing your personally identifiable information to file a fake tax return on your behalf and claiming you are owed a refund by the IRS.  Then cashing that refund leaving you with the liability of recovering from your loss.  For the next 3 months be on high alert as you will be accessing more sensitive data than usual to prepare your taxes in order to avoid identity theft.

Protect yourself and others by following these 10 ways to avoid identity theft this tax season:

  1. Password-protect all tax returns and supporting financial files. Always create complex passwords and never save them unprotected, especially PDF, Word, or Excel files.
  2. Don’t send tax documents, social security numbers, or bank numbers via email to your accountant, spouse or anyone, unless they are encrypted.
  3. If you receive an email purporting to be from the IRS that requires personal information, do not respond to it.  The IRS does not contact individuals via email.
  4. When postal mailing your tax return to the IRS, use certified mail, send it from a secured location, and do not let it sit in the blue mailbox overnight as it could be stolen.
  5. Stay away from e-mails or websites with offers of a tax refund for an already-filed return to be direct-deposited to your bank account.
  6. If you receive an unsolicited phone call from someone claiming to represent the IRS, do not give personal information over the phone. Hang up and call the IRS directly to answer their questions.
  7. Permanently shred unsecured documents from your computer that contain personal information. Printed documents should be traditionally shredded.
  8. Pay attention to storing children’s identity data. Their information can be harvested at underground websites for years and used later in life to commit identity fraud.
  9. After filing taxes online, clear out the web browser cache.  This removes any occurrence of confidential information from temporary disk space.
  10. Install the latest updates to your operating system and anti-malware software to prevent known vulnerabilities from being exploited.
  11. Bonus:  Protect what matters!  Do not keep unprotected copies of your personally identifiable information on your computer. At work, make sure your company uses Spirion to automate the discovery and classification of sensitive information so that it cannot be used to commit identity fraud.

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