As the deadline for filing your income tax paperwork quickly approaches, you may be tempted to cut corners or rush to get them done. I suggest not throwing caution to the wind in your filing methods, as you may end up paying much more for it in the long run.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts Tips to help you safely file your taxes without falling victim to cybercriminals and identity theft:
- DO: Get good references – If you’re hiring someone to do your taxes, make sure the person is honest and capable. If you are hiring a new tax preparer, do the leg work to confirm they’re good at it. Get references from other clients and do research online with a Google search on the individual’s name and/or their business’s name. Go through the search results carefully and heed any red flags.
- DO: Make sure you have a secure connection before e-filing – If you’re filing the new fangled way via tax software or the IRS’s website, don’t use public wireless connection. Use a secure, password-protected Internet connection.
- DO: Direct deposit your refund – If you’re getting a refund, have it electronically deposited into your bank account. This saves time and removes the chances of your refund check being lost or stolen. All you have to do is add your account numbers and the bank routing numbers at the end of your tax form.
- DO: M-I-Y – As in, “mail it yourself.” If you’re filing in the old-fashioned way – on paper forms – don’t give the envelope with your paperwork to someone else to mail for you. They may not be as attentive with your highly confidential documents as you would be. And, of course, you’ll have that little peace of mind when you see the envelope disappear down the chute at the post office or drop into the mailbox.
- DO: Destroy all draft copies – Any paperwork that contains your personal data (that you don’t need to keep) should be shredded before being thrown in the recycling bin. In this age of massive identity theft, every home should have a good-quality shredder.
- DON’T: Fall for phishing attacks –The IRS will not contact you via email requesting information. If they require more information from you, they’ll mail you a letter via regular post. If you receive a fake IRS email or one that you think is fake, forward it to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- DON’T: Delay if you suspect you’ve become a victim of identity theft – If you think someone has used your Social Security number to file a false tax return, complete IRS Form 14039 immediately. You will also want to notify the three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax or TransUnion) and your bank to protect yourself from further risk to your credit and financial accounts.
I work for Trend Micro and the opinions expressed here are my own.