Tax season is never a fun time for anyone. I know I always get a little stressed out when I have to do my taxes; however, I can't imagine how stressful it must be for those who get scammed while doing their taxes.
These tax-related scams are always much more likely to happen around this type of year, and I have a few tips for you so that you can avoid that nightmare from happening.
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Tax-related identity theft is when a scammer uses your personal information, such as your Social Security number, to file a fraudulent tax return in your name. They could use this information to open new credit cards or bank accounts, start a loan in your name and more.
These scammers can get to your information in various ways. Some might send you phishing emails to trick you into clicking some links claiming to be from the IRS, while others might try calling you and get you to give your information over the phone.
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They have lots of tricks up their sleeves, so it's important that you know the signs and take the steps to protect yourself ahead of time.
If you go to file your tax return electronically and the IRS alerts you that someone filed for your return using your Social Security number, then you have likely been a victim of identity theft.
Also, if you try to file your tax return by mail and receive a letter from the IRS stating that they have already received a return in your name, that could mean your identity has been compromised.
Lastly, if the IRS sends you a letter stating that you have created a new online account, and you know you didn't do this, that is a dead giveaway that your identity may have been stolen.
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Report the crime to the Federal Trade Commission: The FTC is there to help track down scammers, and your report can also help them keep a record of how many scams are happening in a single year so that they can better improve how to warn others. You should also report the crime to identitytheft.gov.
Complete IRS Form 14039, the Identity Theft Affidavit: This is the form that all victims of fraud have to fill out for the IRS. This will let them know that the person who is claiming to be you is a fraud. You can find the form on the IRS website.
Request a copy of the fraudulent tax return from the IRS. You can do this by going to this page on the IRS website on dealing with fraudulent returns and following the instructions to order a copy.
Alert national credit bureaus: Let the national bureaus like Experian, Equifax and TransUnion that there has been fraud and place a freeze on your account so that the scammers cannot get to it.
Check your online bank accounts: Make sure there aren't any suspicious transactions on any of your accounts.
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Use an IP PIN: This stands for Identity Protection Personal Information Number, which is a unique six-digit code that eligible taxpayers can use when they file their tax returns. This way, even if a scammer gets a hold of your Social Security number, they still can't file a fraudulent tax return unless they have your IP PIN.
Don't fall for fake emails and calls: If the IRS has an issue with you, they will send you a certified letter in the mail. They will never contact you by phone call, text message or email.
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Have good antivirus software: The best way to protect yourself from clicking malicious links that install malware that may get access to your private information is to have antivirus protection installed on all your devices. This can also alert you of any phishing emails or ransomware scams. See my expert review of the best antivirus protection for your Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices by searching "BestAntivirus" at CyberGuy.com by clicking the magnifying glass icon at the top of my website.
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Use an identity theft protection service: Identity Theft companies can monitor personal information like your Social Security number, phone number and email address and alert you if it is being sold on the dark web or being used to open an account. They can also assist you in freezing your bank and credit card accounts to prevent further unauthorized use by criminals. One of the best parts of using an identity theft protection service like my #1 pick includes identity theft insurance to cover losses and legal fees, and a white glove fraud resolution team where a U.S.-based case manager helps you recover any losses.
Learn more about my #1 pick by heading to cyberguy.com/identitytheft.
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File early: The earlier you file your taxes, the better chance you have of beating a scammer to the punch of filing a fake return.
Have you been a victim of tax-related identity theft? Tell us about your experience.
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