The Affinion Security Center educates consumers and provides the following tips on how to prevent identity theft during tax season:
When preparing your return
1. Be aware of suspicious emails and phone calls regarding your tax refund, tax filing or any stimulus checks – Check the IRS website for tips on how to spot scammers and thieves posing as the IRS and a list of known phishes.
2. Be diligent when choosing your tax preparers – Ensure that you are working with a credible firm and be extra cautious about new or seasonal offices. Check the IRS website for more tips on how to choose a tax preparer.
3. Secure your computer – Many people file taxes electronically. If you are one of those, be sure to install updated firewalls and anti-spyware protection to help keep your personal data out of the hands of thieves.
During and after filing
1. Mail securely – If you file via mail, be sure to mail your return directly from the post office – do not leave your tax return in your unlocked mailbox or at the curb for pickup by your local mail carrier. Your personal information will be vulnerable until it is retrieved by the postal carrier.
2. Safeguard sensitive information in home and outside – Frequently the greatest threat to personal information comes from service providers or in-home workers or acquaintances. Keep paperwork in a safe location. When carrying this information out of the house, be sure to keep it on you or make sure if you leave it in the car, it is not visible.
3. Micro-shred your documents – Cross-cut shredders just don’t “cut” it these days. Use a micro-cut shredder for maximum security. The shred size on micro-cut machines is much smaller – documents are literally turned into dust, offering the highest level of security. And since even a seven year- old receipt can be used by a thief, shredding is still one of the simplest ways to prevent identity theft.