By Rico Dilello
Tax season is the one time of year that a lot of sensitive personal data is on the move. Employers and financial institutions are sending you tax documents, you are then transmitting them to your accountant or using tax filing software. Take care to safeguard that data every step of the way. Tax season is already stressful enough, individuals increasingly have to contend with the possibility of fraud or identity theft involving their tax return.
“Tax-return fraud is a mounting problem. In 2013, according to a Government Accountability Office report released last year, the Internal Revenue Service thwarted $24.2 billion in fraudulent refunds requested — but paid out $5.8 billion.”
Scammers can easily whip individuals into a panic, aggressive efforts to steal data and cash by masquerading as IRS officials. Some scam artists try to convince you that you are a victim of a fraudulent return and need to verity your personal information. Others threaten audits, fines, arrests and all manner of other dire consequences to victims who don’t wire cash immediately or click through a link to confirm their personal information.
You might see official-looking seals and language in an email that have been pulled from legit IRS communiqués, or hear background noise in a voice mail meant to resemble a call center. Don’t click on any links in emails or call back any numbers left for you in a voice mail. Pushing calls and emails are the easiest tax fraud to avoid. Your best defense, keep calm and think it through.
“The IRS has said repeatedly that its first point of contact with you is going to be by mail. Not an email and not a phone call.”
- Not receiving an expected form could be a red flag of old-fashioned mail theft.
- Make a check list of documents or forms with the approximate date that they should have arrived.
- Use a secure file service to transmit documents electronically to your tax preparer
- Personally drop off documents to your tax preparer.
When in doubt, your best bet, would be reach out to that entity directly through an email or phone number that you know is legitimate. Even if you’re not a victim, be aware that federal and state authorities have put in place safeguards to thwart tax fraud which could delay your refund or snarl your return.
By Rico Dilello