As tax season comes and goes, millions of consumers are left vulnerable to identity theft as tax documents with personal information are distributed online and through the mail. Though steadily decreasing, tax identity theft and fraud remain the Federal Trade Commission’s top consumer complaint. Busey suggests these tips to protect yourself from identity fraud during tax season.
1) Don’t share your secrets. Keep your Social Security number and bank account information to yourself if you're contacted online or over the phone—neither your bank nor the IRS will contact you requesting your personal information.
2) Beware of phishing emails. Phishing occurs when criminals use fake emails and websites of trusted organizations to coerce consumers into sharing personal information. During tax season, fraudsters pose as the IRS. Don’t be fooled—the IRS will never initiate taxpayer contact via unsolicited email to request personal or financial data.
3) Shred sensitive papers—receipts, bank statements and unused credit card offers—before throwing them away. Keep tax documents and other important papers in a secure place.
4) Keep an eye out for missing mail. Fraudsters look for monthly credit card statements, W-2s, tax refunds and 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.
5) Protect your computer. Make sure the virus protection software on your computer is active and up-to-date, especially if you plan to file your taxes online. When conducting business online, make sure your browser’s padlock or key icon is active. Make sure the website is secure and begins with “https.”
6) Use online banking to protect yourself. Monitor your financial accounts regularly for fraudulent transactions. Sign up for text or email alerts from your bank for certain transactions, such as online purchases or transactions of more than $500.
7) Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately. If the IRS denies your tax return because one has previously been filed under your name, alert the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit.
With constant changes in technology, there are always new ways for risk. The best way to protect yourself from fraud is to be proactive. Busey wants you to be informed of any security issues, scams or alerts that may impact you. Visit the Information Security Center on busey.com to help you stay informed.