Tax return filing has just opened and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) want you to be prepared. You might be thinking that this isn’t your first rodeo when it comes to filing your annual returns—that’s why it’s called an “annual” thing, after all—but there might be some special considerations you haven’t had to think of in the past.
Tax identity theft and tax return fraud can affect consumers in very harmful ways. Basically, using your personal information, a thief files a fake tax return and steals your refund. They can do this by gleaning your information that was stolen in a previous data breach, gaining access to your data in person, copying it from your employee record at work or your medical file at the doctor’s office, and so many other ways. They can even buy it off the internet or create a whole new identity by picking random digits to create a Social Security number that just happens to be yours.
This easy-to-accomplish form of identity theft has been responsible for billions of dollars per year in fraudulent refunds from the IRS, and it also leads to serious delays for both the government agency and the victims. To help you be prepared, the FTC and the ITRC are hosting an important series of events about tax identity theft during Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, which will take place from January 29 through February 2. The purpose of this week is to educate consumers on tax identity theft while also providing tips and best practices to help them reduce their chance of becoming a victim.
To kick off the week, the FTC and ITRC will be hosting a free webinar on Monday, January 29, at 2p.m. ET, which will cover the ins and outs of tax identity theft, IRS imposter scams, tips for consumers and businesses as well as what to do if you become a victim. In addition, the two organizations will host a Twitter chat on February 1, at 3:00 p.m. EST. This social media-based opportunity will focus on ways to protect yourself against tax identity theft and refund fraud. To join the Twitter chat, simply log into your Twitter account and search for the #IDTheftChat hashtag. Be sure to include the hashtag at the end of all your comments or questions in order to be a part of the discussion. Click here for a full listing of events taking place this week.
Even before the week begins there is no time like the present to start thinking about how you can be proactive during tax season in order to protect your information. For example, one of the easiest things you can do to help fight back against this crime is to file as early as possible in order to beat a criminal to it. This may be especially true for taxpayers who know their personal identifiable information has already been compromised or stolen in a prior data breach or identity theft event.
Most important of all, once you’re armed with the information you need to fight back against tax identity theft, it’s vital that you help others with this information. Social media posts, emails to your co-workers, even organizing a training get-together at work or in your community can help others be prepared. LifeLock, a Symantec company, proudly provides financial support to the Identity Theft Resource Center.
We encourage you to share your thoughts on your favorite social platform.