01/30/16 – Yes, it’s that time of year again. Time to gather up all of your papers, sort through them, and schedule a visit with me, your CPA. But with the staggering rise in Identity Theft recently, and especially theft of income tax refunds, you want to make sure that your information is secure. If your identity is stolen and the thieves get your tax refund, it can take from 6 months to a year to get it sorted out. If you are sending or receiving any documents electronically, be aware any mobile device you use is absolutely vulnerable unless you have good security software installed on it – this means mobile smartphones in particular. Also be aware that public computers and wi-fi are especially good targets for ID thieves. I have a secure system to send and receive documents, and it’s nearly effortless to use.
Another thing to consider is using a work computer or email for these personal tasks. Emailing your W-2 to yourself or to me (through a secure link I can send you) is probably OK, your employer already has this information. But anything else you send through your work email can be viewed by your employer – it’s their property and they can do with it what they wish. I’m sure you wouldn’t want your employer to know all of your personal financial information. Seriously consider using a non-work email address and a home computer to send and receive electronic documents.
I found the following article on USAToday.com about the IRS and identity theft. Your refund is vulnerable because the IRS doesn’t get your W-2 information until well after your tax return is due to be filed. By then, ID thieves have made off with your money using your SSN and a fake name, had a direct deposit made into a bank account that’s now closed, and you’re left to pick up the pieces and prove who you are and that the money rightfully belongs to you. Over $5 BILLION dollars was paid out in refunds to identity thieves in 2013, and though 2014 figures aren’t out yet I expect it will be more. Don’t let your money be at risk.
You can read the USAToday article here:
Edit: Here’s another article, from CPA Practice Advisor, on tax fraud and identity theft: