GREENSBORO, NC – PUT A FREEZE ON YOUR CREDIT! Everyone’s been telling you to do this since the Equifax breach. It’s a good idea (seriously, go do it) but, it won’t protect you from tax fraud. Yes, if you have a refund coming, hackers can get it.
The whole reason data breaches put you at risk is because thieves get your social security number, which they can use to steal money that's rightfully yours.
Thieves can file a fake return under your name before you do. Even though there’s been 791 data breaches so far in 2016, Eva Velasquez, the CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center said the Equifax breach increases your chances of being a victim, because of the information that was obtained.
“When it comes to social security numbers, that's the key piece that's really going to elevate your risk. That’s why the Equifax breach is bigger than others, because those social security numbers were exposed,” she explained.
Let's forget data breaches for a second; let's pretend they don't happen. Velasquez explained it's still really easy to steal your social security number.
“There's so many pathways for them to access it from something as simple as mail theft or perhaps you lost your wallet, you've left that important information in your car and your car was burglarized, you leave it on a laptop and it's lost or stolen."
Tax identity theft is harder to spot.
“With our taxes, it’s a single touch, we only file it once a year and we are only going to know if there's a problem at that time,” said Velasquez.
In fact, tax identity theft is growing. In 2016, 29 percent off all identity theft cases were tax related.
So, what do you do to prevent it?
1. File your taxes early! Beat the hackers by getting your forms in before they can.
2. Obtain a Personal Identification Number or PIN. Click here to learn how.
3. Adjust your withholdings. Velasquez said thieves like low- hanging fruit. So, if you change your allocations, you’ll get more in your paycheck and less in your refund, which makes you a less likely target.
4. Monitor your taxes. Just like you monitor your credit, monitor your taxes, instead of being surprised when you go to file. Click here to set up or view your IRS account.