Security Alert: Tax Season is Identity Theft Season

January 30, 2019

by UNH Information Security Services

As the 2019 tax filing season begins, taxpayers need to be prepared for the heightened risk of tax-related scams and Identity Theft.

Simple actions like throwing away a receipt with a credit card number on it, unmonitored mailboxes with bills and statements, and confidential information is thrown out instead of shredded can provide criminals with pieces of personal information.  This information can be used to file a fraudulent tax return on your behalf in order to steal your refund or to steal your identity. The sooner you file your taxes, the fewer chances you are leaving for the thieves to do it for you.

Warning signs of Tax Return Identity Theft:

  • You get a notice from the IRS that more than one tax return was filed in your name.
  • You are unable to e-file your return because it has already been filed.
  • You receive a paycheck or a W-4 from an employer you don’t know.
  • The IRS sends you a notice that you failed to report income.

One of the easiest ways thieves can defraud users is through phishing emails. Pretending to be from a trustworthy organization, like the IRS, these emails entice uninformed recipients to provide their Social Security Number, click on a malicious link in the email, enter their credentials on a fraudulent page, or perform other actions that may compromise their identity. For example, know that an email is a phish attempt to steal your identity if it claims to be from the IRS and threatens to withhold your tax returns unless you provide your personal data or log in to their website.

Thieves can also deliver this fraudulent message through a text message or a phone call.

Remember to follow these simple steps to reduce the risk of identity theft:

  • Always check the sender email address and keep an eye out for grammar errors or misspellings. Sometimes scammers spoof an email address with a slight change in text.
  • Never open a hyperlink or attachment from a suspicious source.
  • Never email your Social Security Number.
  • Remember that the IRS does not communicate with taxpayers via email.
  • If you received an email “from IRS” or any suspicious emails, forward them to or use the Report Phish button in Outlook to report them.
  • If you responded to such an email and this sender requested any action on your part, please contact immediately to determine if additional actions need to be taken to protect your identity. 
  • If you have minor children, call all three credit reporting agencies and request that their credit is frozen.  When they reach 18, you can unfreeze their credit.  This helps protect against someone stealing their identity in the interim. 
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