In 2012 the IRS reports that, during the first nine months of the year, the report of Identity Theft cases went up 62 %. The main reason for the spike; it was tax season. The fact is, right now there are cybercriminals who, using a wide variety of nefarious and, obviously, illegal methods, are gaining access to people’s identity through personal information stored on the web. Once they have it, they quickly drain the person’s bank accounts, leaving them to an unpleasant and shocking surprise.
The reason it happens more around tax time is simple. During the few months before and then after taxes are due many people have a higher than normal level of anxiety about their taxes. They want to take care of them correctly, to be sure, and also are concerned about the money that, if things have gone well, will be returned to them. This makes them hyper-sensitive to anything that might come ‘from the IRS’ online, whether it’s actually from the IRS or not.
And that’s the problem. Cybercriminals are using powerful but simple to make emails that look and sound almost exactly like the IRS, so much so that many people just can’t tell the difference. Imagine someone receiving an email that immediately makes them believe it’s from the IRS because it says all the jargon and has all the markings of the IRS, and that email asks for their social security number and other vital numbers, dates and information. If that person, for whatever reason, isn’t savvy enough to see the difference they open themselves up to great potential harm financially.
There are a number of things you can do to prevent this from happening so that you never fall prey to this, or any other, identity theft scam. Take a look at them below and keep them in mind as Tax season 2013 nears.
- Check that the e-filing service that you’re going to us is IRS registered.
- Check all of your social media accounts to make sure that none have any sensitive info.
- Watch for scams in your FaceBook Newsfeed. It’s a popular place for ‘phishing’.
- The IRS NEVER sends emails to contact you. NEVER RESPOND TO AN EMAIL ‘FROM’ THE IRS. This is probably the most vital piece of advice. Many people have lost their entire savings because of this one simple fact. The IRS does not use email to contact taxpayers.
- If you get an email or any other suspicious anything that says IRS, contact them on their website to report it. http://www.irs.gov
- Don’t download your tax documents. Pick them up in person at a tax office.
- Use care when searching online for tax documents. Go to the IRS website if you have any questions or to a Wikipedia site, but not a non-controlled site that could leave you open to lures from criminally run websites.
- Never save your Tax documents to your computer’s hard drive. If you need to keep them put them on a USB drive, CD or DVD and store it securely in your home.
- Don’t use a public computer to do your Taxes.