Tax season: Identity thief’s paradise

Many consumers look forward to tax season in anticipation of a hefty return. In the same instance, many identity thieves look forward to tax season as well, only in anticipation of beating you to your hefty return.

As consumers are gathering their documents to complete their income taxes for the prior year, they are sending and receiving documents that contain significant amounts of personally identifiable information (PII), especially through peer-to-peer file sharing networks. These networks help open up consumers’ PII to savvy thieves online, leading to potential identity theft.

The Federal Trade Commission reported in 2009 that from 2006 to 2008, the number of consumer complaints regarding fraudulent tax returns that were filed to the IRS had doubled (6% to 12%).

LifeLock provides the following recommendations to best protect PII during tax season and beyond:

SEARCH FOR THE “S” – When using online tax preparation software, be sure that the Web site is secure and that you see an Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. in the URL. The “s” in the URL indicates that the server is secure and personal information can be transmitted safely.

TAKE A TRIP – When filing income taxes by mail, help protect your personal information by taking your sealed IRS envelope to the post office instead of your personal mailbox. Identity thieves can’t steal from your mailbox what isn’t there.

BE PROACTIVE – Because no one can stop all identity theft, take the proper precautions and engage a proactive identity theft protection service to help safeguard your personal information.