Avoiding Identity Theft and Scams at Tax Time

Your tax forms and tax-related documents include information that is valuable to identity thieves such as your name, address, birthdate, Social Security number and more.  There are simple steps you can take to prevent your identity from being stolen during tax time including:

  • Contact employers and/or the IRS if you do not receive W-2 forms and other documents with sensitive personal and financial information that is sent by mail and required to file your taxes by February 15.  Employers are required to send workers their W-2 statements by that date.  If you have not received your statements and your employer indicates that they have been mailed out, there is a possibility that an identity thief may have taken documents from your mailbox.  You can contact the IRS for assistance at 1-800-829-1040.
  • Avoid using open, unsecure or “public” internet connections often found at public “hot spots” such as restaurants and airport lounges when entering personal information online.  Computer hackers can capture information that you are entering on your computer through unsecure internet providers.
  • Be sure to use password-protect all tax return information that you download or input online.
  • Shred all documents that contain confidential and personal information related to filing your taxes.
  • Mail your completed tax return at a U.S. post office or official U.S. post office mailbox – don’t leave it in your home mailbox or office “outgoing mail” box as it could easily be stolen. 
  • Make sure tax forms and checks are not visible through your mailing envelope by wrapping documents in an extra sheet of blank paper
  • If you are filing your taxes online, only use a tax filing service that you are familiar with (not one that you receive an unsolicited email offer for) and make sure it is a company approved by the IRS.  You can find the IRS’ approved list at of providers in your area at www.irs.gov/efile.
  • When filing online make sure that the computer you are using has updated firewall and secure software systems with antivirus and anti-spyware programs to prevent computer hackers from accessing personal and financial information that you enter.
  • Be careful when choosing whom you use to help prepare your tax returns.  The people you work with will have access to all of your financial and personal information.  Be sure to ask any firm you use about their employees’ qualifications and what steps they take to secure your personal information.  Learn more about who can help you with your taxes.  
  • Do not respond to any emails or telephone calls from people claiming to be with the IRS who request personal information in order to process advance payment checks, rebates or refunds. 
  • Do not click on any online “pop-up” messages by companies that offer tax preparation services.  These are usually “phishing scams” where someone fraudulently tries to pose as a legitimate business, nonprofit organization or government agency to solicit personal information such as Social Security Numbers, passwords, bank account information, etc.  The emails or pop-up messages will direct you to a bogus site that looks like the legitimate organization’s website.  Legitimate companies will not ask for this information via email or online messages. 
  • If you download information on to a portable “zip” drive be sure to keep the drive in a secure location.

Learn more about identity theft