Along with everyone else, I have been having the wonderful time of filing our taxes. However, I noticed something new this year that I found both interesting and disconcerting. While gathering up all of my husband’s paper documents, I had realized we were missing one and asked him where it was. He said he would send it to me and shot me a txt with a screenshot of the .pdf file from his phone. At first I marveled at the ease of sending me a document so I could quickly add it to the pile and then I realized that it was coming from the same account that had been hacked twice this past year.
Tax documents contain all of our information. It has where you work, your social security number, birthdate, how much you’ve made that year, your address, telephone number, etc. I know of many of our utility companies would allow access to our information simply by having a SSN, the person’s birthdate and address. One simple change of address to have a utility bill and from there you can set up any service you want. Cable? Phone?
“New York State Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Thomas H. Mattox announced last week that Susan Pemberton, also known as Susan Williams, has pled guilty to multiple felonies. Pemberton, 42, of Rockville Centre, NY, was the last of three co-defendants to plead guilty for their involvement in a multi-year scam involving fake Craigslist ads for employment opportunities and apartment rentals. The scammers used the identities and personal information from the applicants to file hundreds of false income tax returns using stolen identities.
Those responding to the ads were sent employment and rental applications that required name, address, birth date, and Social Security number. Using this information Pemberton and her partners filed more than 250 false New York State tax returns requesting more than $500,000 in fraudulent refunds. They also used the stolen identities to obtain bank loans and credit cards in their victims’ names.” – Dangers of ID Theft in the Digital World
Needless to say, it freaked me out a bit and so I decided to check in on some ways to keep your identity safe during this time of year and with the new innovations of digital tax documents.
- When you receive a tax document through an email, save the document to a designated “Tax Filing” folder and delete the email. For extra safety, password protect the folder.
- If you are filing your taxes online, make sure it is with a trusted program. Filing online has become a lot easier over the years and allows you to keep your tax information to yourself without handing over sensitive information. However, many of us have to have the assistance from tax professionals and in that case make sure they are a trusted and well respected business.
- Be suspicious of any email claiming to be from the IRS. Because so many people want to get their returns quickly, they are quick to react by sending their information over. The IRS will never email you. Never confirm your SSN or bank account information over email.
- It is NOT recommended to photocopy your documents at a public location. Most copiers keep the pages in their short term memory and it would be easy for a stranger to re-copy your information after you have left. Spyware can also steal copies of your SSN information so make sure you have a program to keep your computer clean of virus’s.
- If you are sending a check to the IRS, write out Internal Revenue Service instead of IRS. It is easier to forge a name over abbreviations.
Read more about Tax Time Identity Theft and other ways to protect yourself, such as using a credit and monitoring service like Identity Guard.
It is completely unfathomable to me the cases I’ve been reading about where thieves have used people’s identities to receive MILLIONS of dollars in tax refunds! As the Identity Cases from 2010 to 2011 went up 80%, the IRS has made Identity Theft and Victim Assistance their top priorities. We can assist them and ourselves by making sure we understand what Identity Theft is and how we can better protect ourselves.
I am an Identity Guard Ambassador and have been compensated for this post. All opinions are my own and are in no way influenced by any form of compensation.