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5 Ways to Protect Yourself From Tax Identity Theft

You've heard of identity theft, but let's take it up a notch and talk about tax identity theft.

Tax identity theft is when scam artists use stolen Social Security and Tax Identification numbers to file false refund claims.

It's pretty scary, if you think about it. Nobody wants to land in hot water with Uncle Sam. But if you're not careful, you might find yourself in an inconvenient back-and-forth game with the IRS, based on a mistake so tiny that it could easily have been prevented.

While many cases involving tax ID thieves couldn't have been prevented (how would you know that the hospital's financial services representative is selling information to scammers, as suggested in a recent Forbes article?), there are some ways to protect against tax ID theft.

Steps you can take to protect yourself include:

  • Not responding to electronic IRS communications. Never respond to the "IRS" if contacted via email or Facebook. The IRS does not use text messages, social media or send emails to tell you about audits or refunds.

  • Protecting your Social Security Number. Don't keep your Social Security card in your wallet or purse. Be careful about documents that state your SSN or your TIN.

  • Being careful when surfing the Internet. Websites belonging to the IRS should begin with www.irs.gov. Anything else is likely not the IRS.

  • Taking letters from the real IRS seriously. If your receive a letter from the IRS saying that you have filed two returns or that you have not reported income that you never received, call the IRS. It's likely that someone filed a tax return using your name or other personal information.

  • Keeping tabs on your credit report. Your credit history should tell you if you've been a victim of identity theft. If that's the case, report it to the IRS preemptively.

The IRS has a hotline for identity protection. Feel free to call them at (800) 908-4490. You can also report tax identity theft at the IRS Identity Theft Protection Page.

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