File early to protect yourself
Last year, Colleen and Alan Garrett (not their real names)
e-filed their tax return just before the April 15 deadline. Less than 24 hours
later, the IRS rejected it. The reason: Colleen's Social Security number had
been stolen and used months earlier on another return. The Garretts became
part of the thousands others who were affected by tax identity theft in 2014.
And the theft affected them more than a delayed refund: the day they received
confirmation of the theft, they were scheduled to attend their son's prospective
college orientation and were required to bring financial documents, including
their completed tax return. Although the IRS acknowledged the theft and the
Garretts were refiling, in the eyes of the college, they did not have a completed
tax return which resulted in a delay of the financial aid process. Their son
ultimately did not attend that college, but the financial aid process was
delayed again when he applied at another university.
To prevent the possibility of tax identity theft, consider filing earlier. If you have your documents, such as W-2's, you can begin the process now.
In addition, be on your guard and look out for email phishing
schemes. You may get them through email, paper letter, website or phone call,
but all are aimed at getting your personal information. This
easy-to-read chart from the IRS provides examples and instructions on
what to do if you receive any of these schemes.
Consider a security
freeze. By placing a freeze on your credit file, you can prevent someone
who has fraudulently obtained your personal identifying information, such
as your Social Security number, to open new accounts or borrow money. As an
identity theft victim, you can obtain the freeze for free.
To do so, you must request the freeze by mail and send a
copy of your police report and/or the FTC complaint form to each of the three
major credit reporting agencies. Click
here for sample letters.
For more information on filing and for ID theft prevention
tips, see below:
Return preparation and
theft protection tips & victim assistance