Again this year, the IRS is making fraud and identity theft a top priority. They’ve ramped up their efforts with additional staff assigned to identity theft related issues and are significantly increasing their capacity for investigations. In 2012, their investigations were responsible for nearly 500 criminal indictments. Even with all of these efforts and improvements, however, tax identity theft continues to be on the rise and, ultimately, the burden falls on you to protect yourself.
Typically, we see tax scammers commit fraud in two ways. A tax scammer can steal your statements, W-2s and other personal financial information and beat you to filing your own return. They request that your refund is sent to them, often in the form of a pre-paid debit card, which can be used just like cash. Or, they can steal tax returns being sent by mail and use the extensive personal information included to commit identity theft and open credit in your name.
Here’s how to avoid becoming a victim:
Expect your tax forms. W-2s and tax forms must be sent by January 31st each year; however, they could arrive anytime in January. If you don’t receive your forms, reach out to your financial institution to find out when they were mailed. Many institutions offer an electronic tax form option, which may be safer than mail. If you suspect fraud, call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490, ext. 245.
Expect your tax refund. Typically, the IRS will issue your refund in less than 21 calendar days of receiving your return. Knowing when to expect your refund is a good way to combat theft. The IRS offers a “Where’s My Refund?” online tool and mobile app so that you can track your return. Information is updated daily.
The IRS does NOT email or text. Don’t fall prey to fraudulent IRS emails or text scams. Attachments and website links contained within IRS emails could contain viruses or fraudulent methods to collect your personal information. If you receive an email from the IRS, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org. They will pursue the source, if possible.
Choose direct deposit. Avoid the risk of lost or stolen checks by opting for direct deposit. Our Routing/ABA number is 121181743. Here is more information about setting up direct deposit with us. For more information or help with direct deposit, call a member service representative at (888) 858-6878.
Carefully choose your return method. Filing online is a safer option than by mail. If you choose to file by mail, do not put your tax return in an unsecured mailbox, a community mail drop or an outgoing mail bin at work. Instead, take the return to a post office. For extra protection, you may opt for certified mail.
Beware of suspicious pop-ups. If you are filing taxes online, be aware of out-of-the-ordinary pop-ups asking for personal or financial information. This could be an attempt to steal information for you.
For more information, IRS.gov Help and Resources is a great source.
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by Michelle, AVP, Operations