The Internal Revenue Service, in the Jan. 6 issue of its IRS Newswire, warns taxpayers “to watch out for identity theft at tax time.”
Since scams can be quite varied and sophisticated, people should “use caution when viewing emails, receiving telephone calls or getting advice on tax issues,” states IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
The practice of tax-related identity theft commonly includes the use of stolen Social Security numbers to file fraudulent tax returns and to collect refunds. Therefore, the IRS urges taxpayers to protect their Social Security and Individual Taxpayer Identification numbers, as well as other personal financial information.
It is wise to check your credit reports for fraud and error and to review “your Social Security Administration earnings statement annually.” Also, protect your personal computers with good firewall protection, updated security patches and anti-spam/virus software.
The agency urges taxpayers to use strong passwords for their Internet accounts and to change passwords regularly. Personal information should always be protected. This includes not giving out “personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet,” unless you are the one initiating “the contact or you are sure you know who you are dealing with.”
For much more from the IRS on identity theft “prevention, detection and victim assistance,” see the IRS website at www.irs.gov/Individuals/Identity-Protection.
Opinions are solely the writer's. Joseph Pellicciotti is a lawyer, professor and vice chancellor at Indiana University Northwest.
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