Taxes are scary enough, without adding tax identity theft to the mix. The costs—$3.6 billion a year according to an estimate by the US Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration—are scary, too.
Unfortunately, both tax ID theft and the costs are on the rise. The US Federal Trade Commission wants you to be aware of the danger as you prepare to file your 2013 federal income tax return, and has designated January 13–17 as Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week.
If you missed the Twitter chats, national webinars, blog posts, and citywide forums that took place all over the US this past week, here are tips to help you keep the scammers at bay.
File early. Once your return is accepted by the IRS, the scammer won’t have the opportunity to use your social security number.
File safely. Use a secure internet connection and update your security software and your password. If you’re working with a tax preparer, take time to check her reputation and qualifications.
File-keeping. Keep a copy of your return for your records. Store the electronic version on a password-protected flash drive or external hard drive. Shred printed workpapers or drafts.
File smart. If the IRS needs information, you’ll get a snail mail letter. The request will never come to you through any form of social media or email.