As identity theft claims continue to rise, consumers must take extra precautions to prevent tax fraud when preparing and filing their tax returns, warn the experts at CreditSesame.com. Consider the following tips when filing taxes this year:
1. File Early
The best defense is to file early. The sooner you file your taxes, the less chance a thief has to file ahead of you and claim a refund. Victims of tax-related identity theft say they now have to wait a year or more to get their refund.
2. Monitor Your Mail
Watch your mailbox closely – identity thieves will be watching it, too. As the IRS increases its vigilance for detecting identity theft and bogus returns, thieves need as much information as possible about you to fool the IRS. The easiest way to get that information is from your mail.
3. Choose a Tax Preparer Carefully
Choose your tax preparer carefully. You risk handing over your most personal financial information to an individual or company whose commitment to security and privacy might not be what you expect.
4. Write Out ‘Internal Revenue Service’ on Checks
If you have to send a check to the IRS, make sure you spell out the words ‘Internal Revenue Service’. A common scam is to steal mail looking for checks made out to the IRS, change the ‘I’ to an ‘M’ or ‘T’, and simply deposit the check in an account opened in that name. It may be months before you discover the check has been stolen, and only after the IRS pursues you for non-payment.
5. Check Your Credit Report
If an identity thief has enough personal information to file a fraudulent tax return in your name, they also have enough information to open new accounts and take out loans in your name. Check your credit reports regularly.