Protecting your identity is crucial in this digital age we live in. The IRS recently launched an educational campaign called “Taxes. Security. Together.” to raise awareness about how individuals can protect themselves against financial and tax scams. I encourage you to look up the campaign at https://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Taxes-Security-Together. Here are some suggestions on how to avoid becoming a tax-scam victim.
Use security software, like a firewall and anti-virus protection, to safeguard your computer. Use strong passwords and encrypt your files if you have tax returns or sensitive information stored on your computer.
Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations, such as your bank, credit card company and even the IRS. Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails, even ones that look like they come from friends. Also, do not give out personal information over the phone. The IRS will not call you if you owe taxes without first sending you a bill in the mail. They will also not demand that you pay taxes and not allow you to question or appeal the amount you owe. They will also not require that you pay your taxes a certain way. For instance, require that you pay with a debit or credit card (a common request in a tax scam phone call). The IRS will also not threaten to bring in police or other agencies to arrest you for not paying.
Shred old tax returns and other paper documents before throwing them away. Also, avoid sharing too much personal information publically on social media. This can provide clues to password questions and make you more vulnerable to identity theft.
Lastly, keep an eye on your credit reports and Social Security account every year. I have a service provider that alerts me via email anytime there is a change to my credit report. This might be a good choice if you feel your information has been jeopardized or you just want to keep a watchful eye.
Julia Carlson is a registered principal with, and securities and advisory services are offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor, member FINRA/SIPC.
Information in this column is for general information only and not intended as investment, tax or legal advice. Please consult the appropriate professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation prior to making any financial decision.
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