Every season is scam season and income tax season is a huge time for income tax identity thefts by which identity thieves access your name and Social Security number and the file a phony income tax return in your name and claim a phony income tax refund based on false information they include in the return. The Treasury Department Inspector General issued a report last summer that predicted the IRS will lose as much as 21 billion dollars to income tax identity theft over the next five years. However, it is not just the IRS that loses, but it is also the person whose name and Social Security number has been stolen who is harmed. If you file your legitimate return after the identity thief has filed a return using your name and Social Security number, it can take up to a year for you to get your legitimately owed refund from the IRS.
The key to protecting yourself from this kind of identity theft is to protect your Social Security number as much as possible. Don’t carry your Social Security card with you. Shred any documents that may contain personal information, such as your Social Security number so dumpster diving identity thieves cannot go through your trash and turn it into their gold. Limit the places that have your Social Security number. Don’t give it to companies that ask for it to use it as an identifier of you unless they legally need it, such as when you apply for a loan from a bank. My eye doctor wanted my Social Security number and I refused to give it. Remember, the security of your personal information is only as secure as the security of the weakest place that holds your information. Keep your computer and other electronic devices protected with the latest security software to prevent hacking into your devices and stealing your information. Finally, file your income tax return as early as possible to prevent an identity thief from filing before you do.