Its tax time. Time to file your income taxes with the Internal Revenue Service and hopefully, get a refund back from the taxes you paid throughout the year. For some families, the tax refund is the biggest windfall payment that they will receive all year. Sadly, criminals know this and will go to great lengths to steal these tax refunds before their recipients can claim them. According to the Government Accountability Office, the IRS mistakenly paid out more than $5 billion worth of refunds to identity thieves in 2013. Luckily, there are actions you can take to reduce your risk of becoming a victim. Here are some good tips that will help you keep your tax refund away from criminals.
One of the reasons that criminals can make off with a person’s tax refund so easily is that they file quickly, often before the person can file themselves and before the IRS has all of the documentation they need to identify fraudulent tax returns. By filing for your tax return quickly, you can beat these criminals to the punch and get your social security number into the IRS files as already filed. Any tax filing using your social security number after that will immediately be flagged as suspicious.
Take Advantage Of Electronic Options
When it comes to protecting your tax information from identity thieves, taking advantage of electronic options can be very beneficial. Elect to have all tax documents, including your W-2 and 1099s, delivered to you electronically. Instead of mailing your tax returns, file them electronically with the IRS so they will be processed faster. You can have the IRS direct deposit your refund into your bank account, eliminating the chance that your tax refund check will be stolen out of your mailbox.
Never Provide Tax Information Over The Phone
It is very unlikely that the IRS will ever contact you by email or by phone to ask you to verify tax information, so if you receive communications using these methods it is probably a scam. If you do receive an email that appears to be from the IRS or the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, don’t click any links within the email and forward the message to [email protected]. If you get a call, hang up then call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040. If they really need information from you to process your tax refund, the operator will direct you to the right person.