It seems the possibilities for losing your identity to a cyber-savvy criminal are growing daily; every time you watch 60 Minutes there’s a new horror story! The latest data breach by Target has exposed the personal information of millions of people, and put the fear of identity theft in the forefront of public concern once again. But people don’t realize that more than 40% of the complaints about identity theft are related to federal income tax returns! Why? It’s an easy way to make easy money! All a person needs is someone’s Social Security number. An identity thief usually doesn’t have access to any W-2 forms, so they just make up some numbers, file early, and hope the return gets through the system, before the person actually files their own tax return. Often, the phony IRS claim clears and the identity thief has already cashed the refund check before the individual has any idea that something is wrong. A person will only find out that they have been the victim of IRS identity theft when their legitimate tax return is rejected because someone filed a return for them first. What to do? Know that your social security number is the Holy Grail – don’t give it out unless it’s absolutely necessary, and then – only to a trusted source! More importantly – the biggest safeguard to IRS identity theft is to file your return as early as possible! Once you have filed your return, it doesn’t matter what an identity thief does – your return – and refund – are safe!
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