Tax season is here, and with it come scammers and identity thieves hoping to profit. Here are Privacy Rights Clearinghouse’s (PRC) top tips and resources to help you protect your privacy, your money, and your identity.
Reduce the risk of your mail falling into the wrong hands. You should take steps to protect sensitive information year round, but during tax season you will likely receive a number of “information returns” containing sensitive information such as your Social Security number.
- Use a mailbox that locks or consider having your mail sent to a Post Office Box.
- Try to retrieve your mail as soon as possible after it has been delivered. Never leave it in your mailbox overnight.
- If you go on vacation, have your mail held at the Post Office, or have a trusted neighbor retrieve it.
- If you share a mailbox with roommates, make sure that you (not your roommates) receive all mail that is addressed to you.
When you are ready to file your tax return:
- Mail it at the Post Office or at an official USPS blue mail collection box.
- Don’t leave your tax return or other sensitive outgoing mail in your mailbox or at any other unsecured location for your letter carrier to pick up. Anyone might come along and steal your mail along with your personal information.
- Don't leave your mail in a USPS collection box overnight. Be sure to check the posted times when mail is picked up, and never deposit your mail in a collection box after the final pick-up time for the day.
Watch out for IRS imposters. Scammers know that many Americans have a fear of owing money to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and they often use this to their advantage. IRS imposters may call or email to threaten you with arrest or other legal action in hopes that you will send money or give out sensitive information. Alternatively, a scammer may tell you that you are entitled to a large refund if you provide sensitive information over the phone.
Tip: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) corresponds with taxpayers via mail. The IRS does NOT call or email to ask for money. Nor will the IRS ask for a specific form of payment such as a wire transfer or a prepaid card.
It is easy for scammers to spoof their phone number or make an email appear to be from the IRS (or anyone else). This means you shouldn’t trust a caller or email even if it appears to be from the IRS. If you are still concerned that the call or email may be real, you should call the IRS directly at (800) 829-1040.
- Scammers often use a hostile tone and threaten legal action.
- Scammers may recite an IRS badge number or the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number to make themselves sound official.
- If they have both your phone number and email address, scammers may use both to try to reach you.
- Scammers may call you pretending to be from the DMV or law enforcement to try to support their claim that you owe taxes. Just as they can spoof their phone number to make it appear they are calling from the IRS, they can spoof it to look like a call is coming from law enforcement.
If you think you received an email or call from an IRS imposter, do not provide any personal or payment information to the person who contacts you.
Take down as much information about the call as you can, and report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) online or at (800) 366-4484, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online or at (877) FTC-HELP.
File your taxes early to reduce your chances of being the victim of tax id theft. An identity thief may use your Social Security number to get a tax refund and maybe even a job. Even if you have done everything in your power to protect your Social Security number, it may be compromised in ways that are outside of your control (such as a data breach). For that reason, it is best to be hypervigilant
For more information about tax-related identity theft, visit the FTC website.
If you believe you are the victim of identity theft and need assistance, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center.