Photo: Dumpster Diving
During tax time, financial documents come out of locked filing cabinets and are dropped in mailboxes across America. This is prime dumpster diving season for identity thieves.
myID.com has a list of 8 simple precautions to protect finances from fraud.
1. E-file. When you file your taxes electronically, there will be no paper tax return sitting in your mailbox waiting to be stolen. There are a lot of other benefits to filing your taxes electronically as well. You will get your refund sooner. The IRS can check your returns for accuracy and skipped fields. Use a secure computer when filing electronically; update your anti-virus software
2. If you choose not to file electronically, take your envelope straight to the post office rather than dropping it in your mailbox. Personal information privacy means knowing where your documents are at all times
3. If you vacation during tax season, have the post office hold your mail. An overflowing mailbox full of W-2s, 1099s, and end-of-year statements is a gold mine for identity thieves.
4. Use your shredder. Consult a tax professional to know what documents to keep and what documents should be shredded. It’s extremely important to avoid throwing away anything containing any personally identifying information. Put everything through a shredder before throwing it into the garbage.
5. Keep your tax returns in an expensive safe. Gun safes often have extra room and offer better privacy protection than the $20 filing cabinet sold at your favorite retailer.
6. Don’t let your accountant e-mail you prepared tax returns. This is becoming more common as e-mail becomes ubiquitous. Unfortunately, it is extremely insecure. E-mail accounts are compromised every day. If your accountant does e-mail you a copy of your return, print it and trash the e-mail immediately.
7. It’s okay to store copies of tax returns on a hard drive – this is more secure than e-mail and can be a good way to back up your previous returns. Just be sure to properly dispose of the hard drive when you throw out the computer.
8. Be aware of phishing scams. Identity thieves will call or e-mail during tax season and claim they are from the IRS. If you receive a supposed IRS e-mail, it is a fraud. The IRS does not e-mail any correspondence regarding your taxes. If you receive a call from the IRS, take down an extension number and employee name and call the IRS office at 800-829-1040. If the call is genuine, they will be happy to redirect your call back to the right department.