How to Prevent Identity Theft & Protect Your Private Information
Identity theft is a constant threat in today’s world, and the threat only grows during tax season. As part of its “Taxes + Security = Together” campaign, the IRS recently published a list of recommendations to help taxpayers keep their private information out of the hands of identity thieves.
Use “always on” security software on your computer and mobile devices. The software should include antivirus protection to detect harmful code, a firewall to block unwanted or dangerous internet traffic, and encryption of your most sensitive data. If possible, configure the software to automatically scan all data coming into your device. If you need to transmit sensitive information over an unsecured connection (for example, using public WiFi), the IRS strongly recommends using a virtual private network (VPN).
Use strong, unique passwords for all of your online accounts. Most people have difficulty remembering strong passwords, so you may wish to use a password manager. Many reputable password managing apps are available free or at very low cost.
Stay alert at all times for phishing emails, threatening calls and suspicious texts. Many identity thieves and other scam artists are skilled at making email and text messages appear as if they came from the IRS. If you have any doubt about whether a message or call is from a legitimate IRS agent, delete the message or hang up. Then contact the IRS at one of the phone numbers shown here to inquire about the issue, or report phishing scams to phishing@IRS.gov.
Do not click on links in suspicious messages or download attachments from unknown senders. The links may expose your device to harmful software, or lead you to fake websites designed to harvest your private data. If a strange message appears to be from someone you know, send a separate email or text to that person to confirm whether the mysterious message is legitimate.
Protect documents containing you or your dependents’ private information. For example, do not carry Social Security cards with you, do not store any information about your passwords near your computer, and keep all tax records in a secure location in your home or office.
NEVER give your social security number (SSN), date of birth or other identifying information to anyone, unless you are absolutely certain who they are and why they need the information. Many IRS impersonators threaten taxpayers with swift arrest or freezing their social security numbers if they do not provide identifying information and/or immediate payment by methods such as wire transfer. The IRS never operates in this manner.