Taxes, scams and identity theft

Once again it is tax time and this time of year also opens the door to identity theft and tax fraud. It has been a major problem for quite a while now.

In 2015, the IRS blocked 1.4 million fraudulent tax returns that would have amounted to $8.7 billion in stolen tax returns.

Identity theft and tax fraud were so rampant last tax season that the IRS launched an awareness campaign to “better inform you about the need to protect your personal, tax, and financial data online and at home.”

According to the IRS, “People continue to fall prey to clever cybercriminals.” These criminals trick you into giving them your Social Security numbers, financial account information and passwords.

Cybercriminals use several methods to steal your information. I will give you three ways that cybercriminals steal your identity. But, do not worry; keep reading for three tips to protect yourself this tax season.

How criminals steal your information:

1. Phone extortion

If you have been receiving alarming phone calls that are supposedly from the IRS, with scary prerecorded messages about them taking legal action against you, those are very likely cybercriminals. You are not alone in receiving these calls.

Since 2013, about 900,000 of these phone calls have been made by criminals claiming to be from the IRS.

2. Phishing

I often tell you about phishing email scams, where you receive an email from a cybercriminal disguised to look like it is from a legitimate company, with official-looking logos and letterhead. Cybercriminals use this technique during tax season, too.

You could receive an email that appears to be from the IRS, but it is actually from a scammer. It could contain links that take you to websites where they will collect your personal information, and may infect your computer with malware. “When in doubt, call the IRS,” experts advised.

3. False filings

Cybercriminals will use your information to file your tax return and take your refund. If you get a rejection letter from the IRS when you file your taxes, saying you have already filed your return, immediately call the IRS.

It is always important to be cautious when it comes to giving people your Social Security number, or any identifying information by phone or email. But, during tax season, you need to be especially vigilant.

It is estimated that almost 25 percent of the scams tracked by the Better Business Bureau in 2015 involved taxes.

Here are three ways you can protect yourself, your ID, and your finances this tax season:

1. Verify, then trust

If you are contacted by anyone claiming to be with the IRS, call them back to ensure that the phone call or email came from the IRS. And, remember, if you do owe money to the IRS, you’ll almost certainly receive communication via postal mail.

2. ID and credit monitoring

It is important to have strong internet security software protecting your computer, and strong passwords to keep cybercriminals out. Beyond that, think about signing up with a company that “proactively monitors your credit and ID,” using either a company that specializes in this, your credit card, or your bank.

3. Do not share your identity with anyone

Unless you can confirm that you are really chatting with an agent of the government for legitimate purposes, there is no need to hand it over.

The best way to make sure you are talking with a legitimate IRS agent is to be the one making the call.

Stay protected!

George Cox is owner of Computer Diagnostics and Repair in Mesquite. Call him at 702-346-4217.

Article source: http://www.thespectrum.com/story/life/features/mesquite/2017/01/30/taxes-scams-and-identity-theft/97083344/

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