As the 2017 tax season gets underway, it’s a good idea to take extra precaution to prevent exposure to tax fraud. As we saw in 2016, criminals are using new and innovative methods to try to gain your trust or scare you into lowering your defenses and making a costly mistake. These tactics have continued‡ into 2017.

Tax identity fraud takes place when a criminal files a false tax return using a stolen Social Security number in order to fraudulently claim a refund. Identity thieves generally file false claims early in the year and victims are unaware until they file a return and learn one has already been filed in their name.

To help prevent tax ID fraud, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ‡ and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) ‡ offer the following tips:

  • File early – File your tax return as soon as you have all of your documentation giving criminals less time to use your information to file a false return.
  • File on a protected Wi-Fi network – If you’re using an online service to file your return, be sure you’re connected to a password-protected personal network. Avoid using public networks like a Wi-Fi hotspot at a coffee shop.
  • Use a secure mailbox. If you’re filing by mail, mail your tax return at the post office or an official postal box instead of your mailbox at home. Some criminals look for completed tax return forms in home mailboxes during tax season.
  • Find a tax preparer you trust. If you’re planning to hire someone to do your taxes‡, get recommendations and research a tax preparer thoroughly before handing over all of your financial information.
  • Shred what you don’t need. Once you’ve completed your tax return, shred the sensitive documents that you no longer need and safely file away the ones you do.
  • Beware of phishing scams by email, text or phone. Scammers may try to solicit sensitive information by impersonating the IRS‡. Know that the IRS will not contact you by email, text or social media. If the IRS needs information, they will contact you by mail first.
  • Keep an eye out for missing mail. Fraudsters look for W-2s, tax refunds or other mail containing your financial information. If you don’t receive your W-2s, and your employer indicates they’ve been mailed, or it looks like it has been previously opened upon delivery, contact the IRS immediately‡.

If you believe you’re a victim of tax identity theft or if the IRS denies your tax return because one has previously been filed under your name, you should:

  • Alert the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490
  • Respond immediately to any mailed IRS notice and complete IRS Form 14039‡, Identity Theft Affidavit
  • Contact your bank immediately, to determine if any accounts have been opened without your permission or if your current accounts have been tampered with
  • Contact the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit records:
  • Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper

More information about tax identity theft is available from the FTC at‡ and the IRS at‡. To learn more ways to keep yourself protected online, visit UMB’s Security & Privacy page.

Content adapted from the American Bankers Association (ABA).

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.