Consumer awareness of identity theft and tax-related fraud is on the rise this year, and along with it increased concerns over becoming a victim. Experian recently surveyed consumers nationwide for its annual tax study, focusing on a number of tax related topics including filing habits, identity theft and what they are doing to protect themselves this tax season.
“Tax season is a busy time of year for identity thieves,” said Michael Bruemmer, vice president, consumer protection, at Experian. “Those filing taxes, especially electronically, should educate themselves on what precautions need to be taken, and what assistance is available to them if they become a victim of identity theft.”
Actions consumers can take to protect themselves:
File early to lessen the window of opportunity for a criminal to file first.
Thoroughly research any paid preparer or tax-preparation software. Scammers set up fake websites and software downloads solely designed to trick consumers into providing their personal information.
When filing electronically, ensure that the computer used is on a secured network, and is protected with the most up-to-date anti-virus and anti-malware software. Do not use public Wi-Fi.
Ask potential tax preparers to explain how they file and what steps they take to protect their customers’ information.
Don’t respond to any emails or text messages from anyone who says they’re with the IRS, as the organization contacts individuals via mail and phone only. Note they usually contact you by mail first. No IRS representative ever will ask for immediate payment via phone.
Residents of Florida, Georgia or the District of Columbia can choose to get an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN), which is a six-digit number assigned to eligible taxpayers that helps prevent the misuse of their Social Security number on fraudulent federal income tax returns. Click here for more information.
Read the IRS guide to identity theft at and the news for updates on the latest scams so you can be aware in case you are targeted. You can visit www.experian.com/education for more information about identity theft.
If you have been a victim, check your credit report for any additional fraudulent activity. You can check your Experian credit report for free at www.freecreditreport.com.