Apr 2, 2015 By Gabe
The first step to prevent identity theft while filing taxes online is knowing that tax deadlines mean a feeding frenzy for identity thieves. With all the vital personal data like social security numbers and bank account number flying around the web, they’ll be looking for anyone not following basic best practices.
With over 27 million Americans filing taxes online, they know that the weeks leading up to the April 15th deadline are the best time to start phishing, monitoring coffee shops, and scanning unsecured personal home networks for personal info they can use to steal your identity.
If they get your info, they can file false returns in your name, open lines of credit, and do any other number of nasty things that are very hard to repair.
This means that you should be on high alert for identity theft in April and make sure that everything you do online is secure. Here are the most basic and effective steps you can take to avoid getting your identity stolen this tax season.
1. Secure Your Home Network
Do you have a password for your home network? The first thing you need to do is make sure your network is secured with a password.
It’s easy to see whether or not your wireless network is secure by using your phone or tablet. Head to the screen that shows your available wireless network connections and if there is a lock alongside your home network you’re good to go.
If you don’t see a lock, make sure you add a password on your router. This is remedial to many, but not everyone does it and it’s the first step to being secure.
For some more advanced techniques to secure your router and home network check out this article.
2. Never Email Personal Docs on Public Wi-Fi
While you’re prepping tax returns it’s common to want to send documents over email. But, it’s always a bad idea to send any emails that hold info like social security numbers and bank account numbers.
Want proof? Just search your email account for the last 4 digits of your social security number. How many hits did you get?
Go through and delete those emails and empty your trash while you’re at it.
Most people will do this anyway, so if you’re going to send documents like this at least make sure you’re not doing it from unsecured public Wi-Fi. This won’t protect you in the long run, but it’s better than nothing.
3. Don’t Send Personal Info to IRS Through Electronic Communications
The IRS NEVER requests personal information directly through emails, text messages, or social media. This is a common phishing technique used by identity thieves and some of them look real.
No matter how legitimate the message looks, it’s not the IRS.
If you get a suspicious email, text, or social message from the “IRS” don’t click on any of the links or respond in any way. Never send any personal information to the “IRS” in an email or any kind of electronic message response.
It’s not them.
Report any suspicious emails to the IRS by forwarding it to email@example.com
4. Never File Taxes on Public Wi-Fi
It can be tempting to file your taxes while you’re working remotely, but don’t do it from an unsecured public network. That fat tax refund won’t mean anything if your identity gets stolen. Wait until you get home to your secure network before filing your online taxes.
It’s worth it.
While you’re at it, make sure you’re doing everything you can to stay safe on public networks.
5. Online Tax Filing Software Password Security
Use a totally new password for e-filing software like TurboTax and H&R Block. You might want to use that beautifully complex password you use for banking, but don’t do it.
You might be tempted to use the same password as last year, too.
Take the time to come up with a new one.
There’s a new security step that the IRS offers to people who have been victims of identity theft in the past and those who live in Florida, Georgia, or the District of Columbia. It’s an Identity Protection PIN that will be required on all of your tax forms.
It’s a new program, which is why it’s limited to people at risk and those in only a few states, but it’s growing.
Keep an eye on it and if you ever have the chance, it’s a good idea to get a PIN.