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Anyone can become a victim of tax identity theft.  This occurs when someone uses your social security number to file a fraudulent tax return and claim your refund.  You may not even know there’s an issue until you file your return and learn from the IRS or your state that a return was previously filed in your name.  Keep reading to find out how to prevent your refund from ending up in the wrong hands.

Don’t wait until April to file

Each taxpayer can only file one federal return for the year.  So do your taxes early to beat criminals to the punch.  With ezTaxReturn.com, you can start your return before the season begins and have it transmitted to the IRS once they open.  If someone tries to file a fraudulent return using your information after yours has been accepted, the duplicate return will be rejected.

Use security software on all your devices

It’s common knowledge that you need to use security software on your laptop and desktop, but don’t forget about your mobile device.  These days people are doing more with their smartphones including shopping, banking and even their taxes.  Therefore, it’s a good idea to install an antivirus app so your data isn’t tracked or shared with the wrong people. Allow the software to update automatically so you’re protected against the latest threats.

Protect your identity throughout the year

Your social security card doesn’t need to go everywhere you go.  If it’s lost or stolen, identity thieves can use your social security number to file a fraudulent tax return, open loans and credit cards in your name, or steal your social security benefits.  The best thing to do is to leave your card at home in a safe place.  If someone requests your SSN, don’t be scared to question why.  Only share the information when it’s absolutely necessary.  Other measures you can take to protect your identity include shredding unwanted documents, checking your reports regularly, monitoring your financial statements and using strong passwords.

Recognize and avoid phishing scams

Cybercriminals have all kinds of tricks for getting your personal information, but one tactic they love to use is phishing emails.  How it works is you’ll receive a fraudulent email that appears to be from a legitimate company.  For example, a streaming service, social networking site or the IRS.  The message usually claims there’s some sort of issue with your account, but it’s just a lie to get you to click on one of their links.  Any details you provide will be stolen and used to the crook’s advantage.  There are several red flags that can clue you in to a phishing email.

  • A generic greeting like “Dear customer” or “Dear valued member”.
  • Poor spelling and grammatical mistakes.
  • An unexpected attachment. Forty-five percent of malware comes from Microsoft Word documents so don’t download it.
  • Hover your mouse over the hyperlink but don’t click it.  This will show you the real URL destination.

Remember, the IRS does not initiate contact by phone, email or social media.  Normally, you’ll receive a letter through the U.S. Postal Service if they need to reach you.

Choose direct deposit

Direct deposit is the fastest and most secure way to receive your tax refund.  There’s no waiting around for the mailman or hoping your check doesn’t get lost in the mail.  In most cases, if you provide the correct routing and bank account numbers, the money will be in your account within 21 days.  You can even track your refund using the IRS “Where’s My Refund?” tool.