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Filing taxes early may help protect your identity.

Most of us circle April 15th on our calendars as the deadline to file taxes.  However, if possible, it could be better to get them filed as soon as possible.  Not only will you receive your tax returns earlier (the IRS isn’t nearly as busy earlier), but you may also prevent someone from filing your taxes as you and collecting your refund.

Tax-return Identity theft is when someone uses your personal information in an attempt to collect a tax refund.  Identity thieves really only need your name, Social Security number, and your birthdate to file a tax return in your name.  Let’s face it, all this information is already out there.  There have been too many data breaches to allow us to continue to pretend “No one has my information,” or “I don’t have anything for them to take anyway.” 

Filing early doesn’t guarantee that someone will not attempt to file taxes as you.  But, filing early does increase the odds that yours will be processed first, and also increases the likelihood that you will be the person notified that a tax return has already been file under your name, and not the identity thief.  In the case that someone did file your taxes before you did, this will give you more time to go through all the appropriate steps to ensure your refund does not go to the wrong person.

Besides filing early, here are a few things to help keep you safe during tax season:

  • The IRS will not request payment via gift cards or crypto currencies (for that matter, they will never demand payment in any specific way).  Any requests of this type should be ignored and deleted immediately. 
  • Don’t give your credit or debit card number to anyone claiming to be from the IRS.
  • Filing early does not mean you have to pay owed taxes early.  Do not trust anyone demanding immediate payment or threatening to call law enforcement.
  • Generally speaking, the IRS sends several letters through the U.S. Postal service to get in contact with you.  House visits, phone calls, and emails from someone claiming they are with the IRS could be a scam.
  • Do not use public Wi-Fi when e-filing your taxes.  Always choose private secure connections when dealing with your personal information.
  • Shred or burn all documents with sensitive personal information.
  • Regularly check your credit score and watch for suspicious activity.

If you have any suspicions or questions, there are many reputable tax preparers that would be able help you with your questions.  Also, please report any tax related scams to law enforcement, this helps them get the word out to others so we can all help each other stay safe this tax season.