‘Tis the season for tax fraud! According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), over 150 million individual tax returns were filed electronically in the United States in the 2021 filing season, representing over 90% of all individual tax returns filed. The number of electronic tax returns filed has been steadily increasing over the years, and it is expected to continue to grow in the future.
But as people take advantage of e-filing, so too do cyber criminals, as they seek to scam and profit from unsuspecting victims.To stay safe this tax season and protect yourself against scammers, there’s a few measures you can take – so arm up with these tips and keep your personal information secure.
- Beware of phishing scams: Phishing scams are fraudulent attempts to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, credit card details, or tax-related information. These scams can take the form of emails, phone calls, or text messages that appear to be from legitimate sources such as the IRS, financial institutions, or tax software providers. To avoid falling victim to phishing scams, it’s important to be vigilant and skeptical of unsolicited emails or calls that request personal or financial information. Look for telltale signs of phishing, such as spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, or suspicious links. If you have any doubt as to its legitimacy, go directly to a website you know to be legit.
- Use strong passwords and enable two-factor authentication: Use unique, strong passwords for all your accounts and enable two-factor authentication wherever possible. Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security measure that requires two forms of authentication to verify your identity. By using 2FA, you can add an extra layer of protection to your tax-related accounts, such as your tax software account, email account, or bank account. This will help protect your accounts from unauthorized access.
- File your taxes early: Filing your tax return early can reduce the risk of tax fraud and identity theft. By submitting your return early, you can beat cybercriminals to the punch and prevent them from filing a fraudulent return in your name. If you are owed a tax refund, you will also receive it sooner by filing early.
- Secure your computer and devices: Make sure your computer and other devices are up to date with the latest security updates and anti-virus software. This will help protect your personal and financial information from cyber threats.
- Use secure Wi-Fi: When accessing tax-related websites or applications, it’s important to use a secure Wi-Fi network. Public Wi-Fi networks, such as those found in coffee shops or airports, are not secure and can be easily intercepted by cybercriminals. If you must use public Wi-Fi, use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your data and protect your online activity from prying eyes.
- Use trusted tax software or a qualified tax professional: If you choose to prepare your own taxes, use trusted tax software from reputable vendors. Make sure to keep your tax software up-to-date with the latest security patches and updates. If you prefer to have your taxes prepared by a professional, choose a qualified tax preparer with a solid reputation and a track record of success.
- Monitor your credit report: One of the most effective ways to protect yourself against tax-related identity theft is to monitor your credit report regularly. By reviewing your credit report, you can detect any suspicious activity or unauthorized accounts opened in your name. You can obtain a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once per year.
- Stay informed about the latest tax scams. The IRS regularly updates its list of tax scams and frauds, so stay informed about the latest threats and take steps to protect yourself.
In conclusion, tax fraud and scams are a serious threat to your financial security, and it’s important to take steps to protect yourself. By following these tips, you can reduce the risk of becoming a victim of tax fraud and identity theft. Be vigilant, stay informed, and take proactive measures to safeguard your personal and financial information. Happy filing!