Last week I posted on what you should do if you can’t pay your taxes. That, along with the possibility of an audit, are two of the scariest things about tax season. What many people don’t realize, though, is that identity theft is also common during this time of year. In fact, this facet of identity fraud is growing so much that the IRS has an office specifically set up to deal with ID theft related to tax returns.
While there is no way to completely protect against identity fraud, you can reduce the chance that it will happen to you. I received a rather helpful e-mail on behalf of Janice Chaffin, Group President of Symantec’s Consumer Business Unit. In it, she offers 5 tax safety tips that can help you reduce your chances of being a victim of ID theft:
- Carefully consider your tax preparation: The IRS has a list of authorized e-file partners. Check this list, and use those e-filers. If you use a tax professional, make sure that the person is reliable. Check references, and find out if friends or family have used him or her before.
- Double check your Internet connection before e-filing: Make sure that your connection is secure before you e-file. Check for “https” at the beginning of the address, and a lock symbol in the browser frame. Don’t e-file using shared Internet connections, like those open Wi-Fi networks around town.
- Turn off file sharing services: While services like BitTorrent, Kazaa and others are fun, they are also a security risk. Before sending sensitive personal information, it is a good idea to turn these services off, or remove them. Otherwise it’s easy for identity fraud to take place.
- Encrypt copies you keep on your computer: You can encrypt your files on your computer. Usually you get a PDF copy of your return. Go to “My Documents” and right-click the file name and then select “encrypt”. That way you can protect your data better.
- Make sure your Internet security is up-to-date: Make sure your Internet security is updated and turned on. This will help throw up another layer of protection.