Tax season is like Christmas for identity thieves. They know sensitive information abounds and they are on the prowl looking to take full advantage of this special time of year. No matter how you prepare and file your taxes, it is important to be cautious and aware when handling your most personal information. Here are a few tips we have put together on how to survive tax season with your identity intact.
Secure your incoming mail.
You will be receiving W-2 forms and other documents with sensitive information in your mailbox. If you do not already have a locking mailbox, now would be a good time to invest in one. If that is not an option for you at this time, regularly check your mailbox for these forms and contact the IRS for assistance at (800) 829-1040 if you believe your forms should have already arrived.
Secure your computer.
If you are preparing or filing your taxes via your personal computer, you need to make sure that your PC is protected with updated firewall and secure software systems that contain anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. In addition, if you are storing important tax-related documents on your hard drive, you should protect your computer with strong passwords change them often.
Use caution online.
If you are preparing or filing your taxes online, make sure every website you use is encrypted to protect personal information when transmitted. You can tell that a website is secure because the URL will begin with “https://” instead of “http://”.
Secure your outgoing mail.
If you are filing via the mail, make sure you send your completed tax return from a locked mailbox (i.e. the blue USPS drop-boxes) or the post office. Do not put your outgoing tax return in your home mailbox and put the flag up—this just alerts identity thieves that there is an outgoing check in your mailbox. Remember, even locking mailboxes like the Mail Boss do not provide security for outgoing mail (no USPS approved residential locking mailboxes do).
Use a paper shredder.
Once you’ve filed your tax return by mail or online, you should shred any backup documents with personal or sensitive information that you cannot store securely. Be sure to use a cross-cut paper shredder!