How can you tell it’s springtime? The daffodils are blooming; the pollen is pooling; the rivers are flooding; and millions of us are hunched over our computers trying to file our income taxes.
Unfortunately, as sure as springtime brings spring flowers, it also brings out a new crop of identity thieves looking to harvest taxpayers’ personal and financial information.
Heed to these simple tips to secure your information during tax season:
The IRS will never, NEVER contact you by email or phone requesting any information; if the IRS wants to contact you, they will only do so by mail. If you get an email this is purportedly from the IRS, delete it immediately without clicking on any links. Immediately hang up on callers who say they’re calling from the IRS.
If you’re hiring a tax preparer, do so carefully. Use only a reputable accountant or tax preparation firm.
If you’re preparing your own taxes online, make sure you have a full complement of security applications and firewalls installed and updated.
If you’re using file-sharing software (e.g. Lime Wire), delete it NOW.
If you’re sending your tax forms by snail mail, or will receive your refund in a mailbox, do not use your home mailbox. Use a post office box instead, even if you decide to rent it just during tax season.
Lock up all your tax-related documents where prying eyes and sticky fingers cannot access them. If you have to transport them, keep them locked in your car’s trunk. Never leave them on the seat of your car.
Shred any documents you don’t need. Buy the best shredder you can afford. Look for a micro-cut shredder because the same software to reconstruct shredded mail that government spies have used for years is available to anyone online for as little as $90 a month.