Tips for Preventing Tax Identity Theft


According to Forbes, the Internal Revenue Services (IRS), paid out $5.8 billion dollars in fraudulent tax refunds in 2013. The issue of tax identity theft is a growing problem, and you might be concerned about your money, social security number and privileged information being stolen. Luckily, there are several simple things you can do during tax season to help protect your identity and money. Here are a few ways to protect yourself against tax identity theft:

Take Precautions

From digging through your garbage to more high-tech, phishing schemes, identity thieves utilize several different techniques to steal your privileged information. Luckily, there are a number of simple steps you can take all year long to help protect yourself:

  • Never click on links or respond to emails from the IRS. The Internal Revenue Service will never contact you by email. If this occurs, delete the email immediately.
  • Be careful about which apps you download on your phone. Check the ratings, reviews and, when it doubt, download a similar app from a more reputable source.
  • Check your credit report at least once-a-month. There are several online services that allow you to both monitor and protect your credit score. If you notice any discrepancies, contact your credit reporting agency immediately.

File as Early as Possible

Even if you're extra cautious, it is still possible for an intrepid identity thief to find your privileged information – including your tax documents. Whether you're expecting a huge return or will wind up paying the IRS, it is important to file as early as possible.

The earlier you file, the more likely you are to beat tax identity thieves to the punch.

In many cases, if you file online or with a tax preparer or an accountant, you can file a few days or weeks before the IRS begins accepting returns. If possible, go ahead and file as soon as you can. If you're waiting on all your documentation, don't be afraid to ask your employer, mortgage provider and every other source of tax information to speed up their process.

Find a Reputable Tax Accountant

Hiring a tax accountant to file your returns is a great idea if you're a first-timer, your tax returns are complicated or you simply don't feel comfortable. Before you hand over all your personal documentation to a tax preparer, it is important to choose a reputable professional.

Here are a few questions you should ask any potential tax accountants before allowing them to handle your personal information:

  • Do You Have a PTIN? – Whether you're working with a CPA or a volunteer at your local IRS office, anyone who files your taxes needs to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN. If your tax preparer doesn't have a number or doesn't even know what PTIN stands for, don't allow them to work on your return.
  • What Documents Will I Need to Bring? – In addition to your W2 and property tax statement, you may need to bring along several different types of documentation to complete your return. If a prospective accountant can't tell you exactly what documents to bring or seems confused by your questions, this is a clear sign to keep looking.
  • When Will I Get a Copy of My Completed Return? – Finally, a competent, reputable tax accountant will either provide you with a copy of your completed tax return on the same day they are filed, or will provide you with an acceptable time frame. If the tax preparer doesn't give you an exact date or is unwilling to provide you with a copy of your return, do not work with this individual.

Tax identity theft is a serious problem and, unfortunately, even individuals who are careful can become a victim. However, by safeguarding your identity and working with a reputable tax accountant, you can cut down on the chances of having your identity stolen. 

If you do have any complications with your taxes, consider contacting a tax attorney, such as Wiesner & Frackowiak, LC, to discuss your concerns.


9 February 2016

Dealing with Estate Planning When You're Single

Too many single people assume they don't need to plan their estate. My brother fell into this category, and his unexpected passing left our entire family struggling to deal with his home, belongings, and financial accounts. It took nearly three years for the courts to set up a deal because he left no paperwork detailing how he wanted his estate divided. The situation immediately convinced me to work on my own estate, even though I'm still in my early 30's and don't have children or a spouse to worry about. Since it's a little harder to pick beneficiaries and estate managers when you're single, I collected the resources I used for making my own decisions and decided to publish them here on my blog. Use these resources before talking to an estate planning attorney so you're prepared for making hard decisions.