How to Keep Your Tax Refund Documents Safe
It’s important to take precautions so none of your tax documents are compromised and used by fraudsters.
It’s important to take precautions so none of your tax documents are compromised and used by fraudsters. Someone who gets a hold of your Social Security number has the potential to create havoc with your identity and financial safety. However, there are steps you can take to keep all your tax refund documents safe. Let’s take a look at what you need to know in this area.
Can Someone Actually File a Tax Return in Your Name?
Yes, it’s possible for someone to file your tax return and even steal your refund check. The fortunate thing is that tax identity theft cases have decreased over the last few years as the IRS and tax agencies get better at verifying your identity. Here are signs to look out for regarding this matter:
- You get your e-file attempt rejected due to a duplicate Social Security number.
- You haven’t filed yet and receive an IRS letter about a suspicious tax return.
- You get a notice about an IRS online account getting opened, but you didn’t do it.
- You get mail from the IRS saying your refund is offset, you owe more taxes or collection actions are in motion on a tax year you didn’t file yet.
Preventing Tax Return and Refund Theft
Here are some ways to keep your tax documents safe.
You should always file early. Make it a point to file your taxes the very moment you get your W-2 and other tax forms. This will prevent anyone else having the ability to file in your name fraudulently.
Take steps to protect your online information. The Internet is a tool used by criminals to steal personal information and documents. You can protect yourself, though, by using very long and strong passwords. String together letters, symbols and numbers with your passwords. Make use of password managers like 1Password or LastPass.
Learn how to see through phishing attempts. Phishing occurs when criminals use text and email messages to make themselves look like real companies. They’ll ask you to click links that install malware on your device. This malware has the ability to steal your personal information. Don’t ever click links that look dangerous.
Store your documents in a secure place. Don’t keep copies of your birth certificate or Social Security number on your computer. Keep important documents in a fireproof lockbox or in a bank safety deposit box.
Use a legitimate tax preparer. Do a quality amount of research so you know you’re using a professional tax person or online service when filing your returns. Your tax preparer should know about and use a government document management system so all your documents are protected.
Look out for tax scam operations. Remember that the IRS will never call you on the phone. The IRS communicates 100% via mail. If you get a call from anyone claiming to be the IRS, then you know you’re talking to a fraudster. Hang up immediately. You might want to contact the IRS next and make sure nothing strange is happening inside your tax file.
What to do if Someone Has Used Your Tax Information
If you do happen to find that someone used your personal information, filed a tax return in your name, has access to important documents and has even stolen your tax refund, there are steps to take.
The IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit is the first call to make. Their number is 800-908-4490. Follow their directions, which may include filing a police report. Stay patient throughout the process until you have proven your identity and that you didn’t file the return in question. Eventually, it will get fixed and you’ll receive your rightful refund.
The best way to avoid a bad situation is to take steps upfront to protect your personal information and documents by following the above tips.