Tips to protect your identity during tax season

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For many Americans, the prospect of doing taxes is stressful.

There's the paperwork, which is challenging no matter how organized you are, and the dreadful feeling of the prospect that you might owe money to the government. But there are those who like tax season—like industrious thieves, for example. They have easier access to confidential financial data, so tax season is one of their favorite times of the year.

As you head into tax season, remember to keep identity protection at the top of your mind. Here are a few simple tips to help ensure your personal information stays safe during tax season.

Man filing taxes as early as possible

1. File as early as possible

While it’s tempting to put off the tax return process, it’s increasingly important to file as early as possible. One way identity thieves take advantage of tax season is to file other people’s returns and claim the refunds.

Often, the victims of fraudulent tax returns only become aware of the crime when they file their taxes and are informed that a return has already been filed for them. The simple way to avoid being part of this massive crime is to beat identity thieves at their own game by filing first. Learn more about fraudulent tax returns at the Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft.

Online reviews help people choose their taxpayer with care.

2. Choose your tax preparer with care

As tax season looms closer, avoid the knee-jerk response to work with the first available accountant whose ads you come across. It’s critical to work with only a legitimate company and tax preparer as an improperly prepared tax return can mean trouble with the IRS. Or, if your tax preparer is not ethical and honest, he or she could take advantage of access to your personal information.

Do your research. Check online with the Better Business Bureau, read reviews, or ask for personal referrals, and make sure to hire a reputable firm if you don’t choose to file your taxes yourself.

Man keeps a close eye on his mailbox as one of the steps to help safeguard his personal information.

3. Safeguard your personal information

Be sure to protect the many documents that are part of the tax preparation process, as they contain confidential personal information that make it easy for identity thieves to steal your identity, both during tax season or months and even years afterwards.

Keep an especially close watch on your mailbox during the first six weeks of the year as that is when important tax forms are sent out. When possible, opt to receive tax forms electronically. If you don’t have a locking mailbox, collect your mail as quickly as possible, and be sure to put a hold on your mail with the post office if you have to go out of town for a few days. If you have to mail your information to your tax preparer or the IRS, don’t drop it in an outgoing mailbox. Rather, take it to your local post office branch yourself.

Man looks at a phony alert from the IRS.

4. Beware of tax scams

New and creative tax scams emerge every year. Be on guard if you receive an email or phone call from someone claiming to represent the IRS or other federal agency. Know that the IRS is the only federal agency involved in the tax return process, and that the IRS never contacts taxpayers via email, text message, or phone.

Even though tax-related identity theft is a growing crime, it’s not an inevitable one. AAA provides identity monitoring to members with enrollment in ProtectMyID®, a provider of identity theft detection, protection, and fraud resolution. Being proactive and using common sense during tax season will minimize your chances of becoming a victim of the latest identity theft crimes.

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Get free identity theft protection

By avoiding habits that put you at risk while shopping online, you can help protect yourself against identity theft. Get the tools you need to help safeguard your identity and resolve potential issues by enrolling in ProtectMyID® Essential, a free plan for AAA members provided by Experian®.

Enroll today

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