Protecting Your Information During Tax Season
Whether you’re getting a refund or mailing a check to the IRS, tax season is a key time to safeguard your personal and financial information.We’ve included some red flags to be aware of when receiving tax-related communication, as well as tips to protect your sensitive data all year long.
Scammers may try to obtain confidential data about your business or your household with fake communication appearing to be from the IRS. Though they may promise an expedited refund or payment forgiveness, these scammers only intend harm.
Arm yourself with knowledge about identity protection that will keep you safe before, during, and after tax season.
How do I know something is really from the IRS?The IRS primarily communicates through regular mail, so it’s OK to be wary if you receive an email, text message, or phone call claiming to be from an IRS agent.
If you do receive a letter in the mail, it’s still a good idea to verify if it’s valid. To check the legitimacy of a letter you receive or to help you better understand the letter, you can visit the IRS website and compare what you received with the corresponding IRS form. The IRS does want you to know that fraudsters have been known to modify legitimate IRS letters and forms.
Fraudsters have been known to modify legitimate IRS letters and forms. They often entice people with misleading letters claiming you’re owed a refund. These counterfeit letters typically ask for photos of personal documents and identification and awkwardly worded sentences. They may also include contact information and phone numbers that do not belong to the IRS.
Find more information at Understanding Your Notice or Letter or the Forms and Instructions page.
What should I do if I receive a suspicious email or text message?Think about how many emails you receive each day. Scammers are looking to capitalize on our full inboxes by trying to sneak in an email that you may respond to. During tax season, they may claim to be the IRS requesting immediate payment or giving false instructions on how to send your payment.
If you receive a suspicious IRS email or text message, the IRS recommends the following:
- Don't reply to the sender.
- Don't open any attachments in case scammers have included malicious code that may infect your computer or mobile phone.
- Don't click on any links.
- Delete the original email or text message.
You can fight back against scammers by alerting the IRS to any questionable message you receive. For emails, forward the email as-is to [email protected]. If you receive a fraudulent text message, forward the text as-is to 202-552-1226.
How can I protect my sensitive information?There are many ways you can protect your personal information in addition to methods like document shredding and checking your financial statements for fraud.
If you’re e-filing your taxes, taking extra security measures can give you peace of mind when filling out your return, while other common sense steps can shield your data all year long.
- Use alternative identification methods. How many times have you been asked to enter your Social Security Number on a form for an organization? Do you know if the organization has strict security measures to protect against the misuse of people’s SSNs? When applicable, ask to use an alternative method of identity verification, such as security questions or one-time authentication code.
- Update operating systems and software. Whether you primarily use a mobile device or home computer, you can turn on automatic software updates to ensure you’re operating with the updated security features. You can also research robust security software that provides all-around protection for your data.
- Use a VPN when browsing. The Wi-Fi connection at your favorite downtown café seems safe, but hackers could be lurking to capture your PII as you browse websites or even make a purchase while you wait on your lunch order. Using a VPN, or virtual private network, hides your IP address to keep your online activity private. Many companies require their employees to connect to the Internet via a VPN, but the technology is becoming more widely used. Tech experts from PCMag and CNET offer helpful advice on how to choose a VPN and how to get your subscription’s worth if you’re not using a free service.
- Avoid oversharing personal details. The “What Type of Cat Are You?” quiz on Facebook looks like a few minutes of fun. Are the answers you provide, however, giving cybercriminals clues to your identity or passwords? The same goes for social media posts and photos. Before clicking “post” or “tweet,” check that you’re not sharing sensitive information like full names, birthdates, addresses, school names or nicknames that could be used to build a fake identity.
If you do fall victim to a fraud attempt, contact us immediately at (800) 277-2175. You will also need to change any compromised passwords or login credentials.