Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Thrifty Thinking: Identity Theft Tips for Tax Season

Consumer awareness of identity theft and tax-related fraud has grown, along with increased concerns over becoming a victim. Experian has great insights on how consumers can protect themselves this tax season.

Actions consumers can take to protect themselves:
·       File early to lessen the window of opportunity for a criminal to file first.
·       Thoroughly research any paid preparer or tax-preparation software. Scammers set up fake websites and software downloads solely designed to trick consumers into providing their personal information.
·       When filing electronically, ensure that the computer used is on a secured network, and is protected with the most up-to-date anti-virus and anti-malware software. Do not use public Wi-Fi.
·       Ask potential tax preparers to explain how they file and what steps they take to protect their customers’ information.
·       Don’t respond to any emails or text messages from anyone who says they’re with the IRS, as the organization contacts individuals via mail and phone only. Note they usually contact you by mail first. No IRS representative ever will ask for immediate payment via phone.
·       Residents of Florida, Georgia or the District of Columbia can choose to get an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN), which is a six-digit number assigned to eligible taxpayers that helps prevent the misuse of their Social Security number on fraudulent federal income tax returns.  For more information visit https://www.irs.gov/individuals/get-an-identity-protection-pin
·       Read the IRS guide to identity theft at https://www.irs.gov/uac/taxpayer-guide-to-identity-theft and the news for updates on the latest scams so you can be aware in case you are targeted.  You can visit www.experian.com/education for more information about identity theft.
·       If you have been a victim, check your credit report for any additional fraudulent activity.  You can check your Experian credit report for free at www.freecreditreport.com.

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