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Checklist For Tax Identity Security

Tax identity theft is a billion-dollar business. In 2013, the IRS identified 5.1 million fraudulent returns and paid more than $5.8 billion in fraudulent refunds.

Unfortunately, it’s a relatively easy crime to commit. All the information a criminal typically needs to file a fraudulent tax return is a person’s name, date of birth and Social Security number. They also need a way to file an electronic return.

There is no fool-proof way to stop identity theft. The good news is that the number of new reports of identity theft by individuals who filed 2015 federal tax returns has fallen by more than 50 percent thanks to the IRS and the tax industry partnering to combat tax fraud. But there is more to do, and it also takes vigilance and action on the part of consumers.

For National Tax Security Awareness Week, taxpayers can review this checklist with some simple ways they can protect their information, beware of scams and be vigilant with their taxes.

Protect personal information
Do not carry a Social Security card in a wallet.
Do not give out a Social Security Number (SSN) on the phone or in a public place.
Do not send a SSN or date of birth in an email or a text.
Do not share an online user ID, password or PIN with others. Do not leave this information anywhere someone else can easily see or gain access to it.
Avoid easily guessed or common names and numbers for passwords and PINs. Change passwords regularly and don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.
Close unused credit-card accounts and destroy the credit card.
Use a shredder for documents containing personal information.
Use firewalls, anti-spam/virus software, update security patches.
Look for the S in https which means the site uses secure encryption technology.
Do not shop online on public Wi-Fi where information can be intercepted.
Request a copy of a credit report and keep tabs on who might be accessing it.
Review financial statements like credit card bills and bank statements for suspicious activity.

Beware of Scams

Be aware of phishing and social engineering scams. Be suspicious of emails that ask for credentials. Do not provide personal information over the phone, via text, through the mail or on the Internet.
The IRS will never email or connect on social media to request personal information.
The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment.
The IRS will never ask for credit or debit card information over the phone.
The IRS will never require specific payment methods.
The IRS will always contact taxpayers by mail first about taxes owed.
Report phone calls, emails or letters from IRS impersonators to the Treasury Department. Use its IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting Portal or call 800-366-4484.

Be Vigilant with Taxes
File early to lessen the window of opportunity for a criminal to file first.
If using a tax preparer, ask what they do to protect tax return information.
Apply for additional IRS protections like the identity protection PIN.
Consider a product like the Tax Identity Shield.

Taxpayers can help better protect themselves by practicing these simple measures. But these measures alone won’t always be enough. Criminals can get the information they need to file a return from company and government data breaches.

The IRS and tax industry may be able to stop the thieves after they have the taxpayer’s information. But when the worst happens, the Tax Identity Shield offers victims assistance restoring their identities and getting their refunds.

Taxpayers can learn more about tax identity theft, how to spot it and what to do if they become a victim and what H&R Block is doing to protect taxpayers.

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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