Monday is the first day that the IRS will officially accept tax returns. But, with all of the data breaches that occurred in the past year, this may be the year that you will want to file early and to take some extra precautions.
If a criminal obtained your name, date of birth, and Social Security number, they may be able to file a tax return or do other unscrupulous acts using your good name. But, even though your information was compromised, it does not necessarily mean that this will happen. However, do not let your guard down. Pay attention and do all that you can to protect yourself from falling victim to identity theft.
If you file early, you have a better chance that your legitimate return will be processed before a fraudulent return is done. To combat this, the IRS is trying something new this year with our W-2s. Some will have a special verification code to prove it is legitimate. But not all employers will be using this yet. Thus, when you file your return, it is especially important to make sure that you are keeping your information as secure as possible.
Many of us receive W-2s and other tax documents via email or online, or we might file our taxes online. Whether accessing documents or filing online, it is critical that you are using well protected, updated computers and software, secure networks, and that you are using extra strong passwords. And, be careful of phishing emails or phone calls that may seem legitimate, but are not. When in doubt, do not open or click on links, nor respond to requests for personal information until you can check things out with a reputable source.
A credit freeze will only protect a criminal from establishing credit in your name. The IRS has a web page with a lot of good information about protecting yourself, and how to take action. We have a link for this in the call for action section of tmj4.com.