Julie Perez, Vice President—Operations
Whether you’re already busy collecting your tax information or a last-minute filer, you’ll need to be more proactive than ever this year. Identity thieves have upped their game, which means you need to be on top of yours.
Beyond keeping tabs on the whereabouts of the information and statements that will be coming your way—both via mail and electronically—to ensure they reach you, consider filing as soon as you are able to this year.
Scammers may have obtained your Social Security number during one of the recent retailer, employer or health insurance security breaches—or by other means. They may try to file a phony return and claim a refund using your tax identification number before you ever file.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) actively monitors for this type of fraud, but it can take months before it’s caught. Filing early can be preventive, since the first return filed essentially “wins.” But, also consider filing electronically or using a tax preparer who files electronically. You may not prevent the fraudulent return from being filed, but you’ll find out about it sooner and be able to alert the IRS so it can initiate an investigation.
Here are some other preventive actions that can help keep your identity and money safe during tax season.
- Know your preparer. You are literally trusting this person—or service—with the keys to your financial kingdom. Be wary and get referrals before handing over your information to someone new, especially someone working out of a temporary office.
- Practice safe computing. Update security software and scan for viruses before you begin downloading tax information or preparing your return online. Also, avoid working on your return or accessing personal information through public Wi-Fi. As an added precaution, if you are filing online, verify the site you are on is the one you intended. It’s easy to mistype addresses and end up on a phishing site. And, make sure the address starts with “https” to ensure it is secure.
- Don’t link from emails. If you receive a message that asks you to verify financial or account information, don’t click on the links provided. Look at the full address—emails from phishers are typically one letter off from the legitimate site address or have added extensions on them, such as “.ru.” If you aren’t sure whether or not to take the email seriously, look up the sender’s customer service phone number and call to verify the message is authentic.
- The IRS doesn’t call, text or email. It sends official notifications and doesn’t ask for personal information—it has it already. If you are contacted by someone claiming to be from the IRS, ask for the case number and then call the IRS on your own.
- Choose direct deposit. Electing to have your refund sent via direct deposit is more secure than having it mailed. But, verify that your account information is correct. If your refund were to be sent to a closed account, the bank is legally obligated to return the money to the IRS.
As your bank, we also keep an eye out for unusual activity in your accounts. And, if you need to investigate or report any suspicious activity, call us. We’ll help you get in touch with the right resources for addressing it.