Identity theft is a serious crime that relies on people letting down their guard. Chances are you are already taking steps to safeguard your personal information. Hopefully, you do not open emails from unrecognized senders, you shred documents that contain confidential information, and you keep private information away from prying eyes and listening ears.
Tax identity theft is especially active during the first few months of the year. It can disrupt how your tax return is processed. Each year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) uses your Social Security number to identify your tax filing, ensure it is accurate and complete, and process your refund. Scams targeting taxpayers trick them into sharing Social Security numbers and personal information, and using it for theft.
- Email and phishing schemes that collect information from trusting consumers.
- Using stolen identities, scammers file fraudulent tax returns. If a return is processed by the IRS, the refund is deposited into the taxpayer's account. The crooks, posing as IRS collection agents, call the victims and demand the money be "returned."
- Links to bogus websites that attempt to mirror the official IRS website and collect information.
This IRS Consumer Alert provides more examples and details.
Is that official-looking notice legit?
An unexpected notice claiming to be from the IRS is a red flag that someone else might be using your social security number. Be aware that the IRS does not initiate contact with a taxpayer by sending an email, text, or social media message that asks for personal or financial information. If you receive such a notification, ignore it.
Stay informed to remain vigilant -- here's a look at how scammers impersonate the Social Security Administration to dupe consumers (courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission).
Be sure to visit CAP COM’s online Security Center for further guidance and an up-to-date scam tracker.
For detailed information to reduce your risk for tax-related scams, and how to take action if you are a victim, see the IRS’s Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft. This one-page digest is another useful reference to keep on hand.