April is almost here and along with the flowers, rain, and Easter, April also brings with it that dreaded of all seasons – tax season. This year the filing deadline is Tuesday, April 17, 2012 so many of us will be busy for the next couple of weeks working on our taxes. While you are going through all the necessary paperwork associated with your taxes, have you given any thought as to how to protect all of that private information and how to keep it out of the hands of identity thieves?
I’ve talked about identity theft here on MomRN and also on the Ask MomRN Show a few times in the past. Last month I shared tips with you to protect your child from identity theft. In honor of tax season, when identity theft usually increases, here are some tips for protecting your tax documents and identity.
Fake IRS emails and phone calls
During the past several years, especially during tax season, I’ve received emails and even phone calls claiming to be from the IRS that were really phishing scams. Most of these emails and calls claim that there is a problem with my tax return or that they’ve discovered I’m owed a bigger refund (wouldn’t that be nice!) and all of them claim to need more information, such as my Social Security number or bank account number so they can process my return or refund properly. Some emails contain an attachment or a link to open. The fake phone calls are usually automated, but not all. In any case, something I learned a long time ago is never to trust these emails or phone calls. According to an article about tax-time identity theft, the Internal Revenue Service will never email you, will rarely call, and will always notify you by mail first if they need to talk with you.
Guard your tax documents and mail
Having all of your tax documents and information in one secure place and shredding any unnecessary paperwork or mail containing identifying information can help protect your identity. Check your mail daily and if you mail your taxes or any documents containing your Social Security number or financial information, go to the post office instead of putting them in your home or business’s mailbox.
Protect your SSN (Social Security number)
When I was 12 or 13, I got my first Social Security card. I didn’t really know what it was for, but I signed it and gave it back to my mom for safe keeping until I was older. My mom gave it back to me when I went to college and it stayed in my wallet. Then as a newlywed with a new card showing my married name, the old card was filed and the new card went into my wallet. I was never told back then that you shouldn’t do that and I assumed that it was something you had to have with you for ID, just in case it was needed. A few years later I finally learned that I was putting my identity at risk by carrying the card. By then I had the number memorized anyway so I filed the card in a safe place and have not carried it with me since.
Don’t carry your card with you. And do not give it out to anyone unless it is critical, such as when you start a new job or you are filing your taxes. Visit Identity Guard for more information on SSN protection.
Choose your tax preparer carefully
Whether you use a CPA or tax preparation service or do your taxes yourself, do your research and choose carefully. Ask for references and ask how they will ensure your information will be secure and protected while they have it and how long they will keep your documents and information after the tax deadline. Check with the Better Business Bureau for any complaints against the company or tax preparer.
If you are using software or online services, use only reputable companies with adequate security and be extra careful not to misspell the url or you could accidentally end up on a fraudulent site designed to look like the real deal.
Monitor your identity
Another way to protect your identity at tax time and throughout the year is to keep an eye on your credit report. You can get a free credit report from all 3 reporting agencies once a year. I have found using an identity protection service helps me keep on top of my credit report, alerts me to any problems, and gives me more peace of mind than when I was trying to do it all myself. As a kIDSure Ambassador for Identity Guard, I have been using their services for a couple of months now and have been impressed with the level of protection, the amount of information they provide, and their customer support.
Identity Guard offers identity protection for the whole family through credit report monitoring and reporting, SSN and address monitoring, ID monitoring with alerts, lost wallet protection, and more. They also offer child identity protection through kIDSure.
Disclosure: This service was provided to me for review at no charge. In addition I received monetary compensation. All opinions are my own.