During tax season, limitless confidential information is transmitted daily. As tax season approaches, it is important that you know how to identify common tax scams and how to respond if you fall victim to one. Keep the following in mind when you file your taxes this season.
Tips for Keeping Your Information Secure
- Payments should only be made to the U.S. Treasury.
- Never handle confidential information on open Wi-Fi networks (e.g., Wi-Fi for public use), especially tax returns.
- Avoid sending confidential information via email.
- Be alert for phone calls, emails, social media posts, or websites posing as the IRS.
- If you’re unsure about a phone call, hang up and call the phone number listed on the IRS’s website: irs.gov.
- If you’re unsure about a suspicious email, check for red flags (https://itservices.usc.edu/security/phishing/) and forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org for further evaluation.
- If you’re unsure about a website, check the address bar for the irs.gov domain.
- If you’re using a tax preparer, do ample research on the individual/company.
- If you’re using a tax preparer, make sure they regularly check for malware.
- File your tax return as soon as possible. Filing early will ensure that no one else can file on your behalf with a stolen social security number.
Remember that the IRS does not:
- Initiate contact by email, text message, or social media; the IRS will always reach out through mail first.
- Demand immediate payment.
- Request payment via prepaid debit card or gift card.
- Threaten to bring in law enforcement or immigration officers for non-payment.
Identity theft can occur when someone uses your personal and confidential information (like the information found in tax returns) without your permission. Identity thieves use this information to open new lines of credit in your name, get medical care, steal your tax refund, and much more.
To learn how to protect yourself from identity theft, or if you believe you may be a victim of identity theft, view more information on our Identity Theft page.
For further assistance on security-related questions, reach out to TrojanSecure@usc.edu.