A lot of people nowadays are lulled into a false sense of security regarding their personal information, thinking that there is safely tucked into the deepest recesses of a heavily fortified database. What they don’t know is that their information is now, more than ever, easily accessible to dishonest employees and crooks who excel at hacking. Right now, all it takes for our precious information to be used for nefarious purposes is for a crafty criminal to break through security measures, pry open loose ends, and wreak havoc. If you’re looking forward to having your tax refunded this New Year, chances are, you’re not the only one. Tax identity thieves are more than likely looking for the perfect opportunity to snatch critical information and use that to file returns and take your refund.

Tax-related identity theft has got to be the most common fraudulent scheme preferred by criminals when it comes to identity theft. It is usually done by stealing your Social Security Number (SSN) and using that to defraud professional tax preparers, file for a tax refund or even get a job. In 2016, 65.2% of the identity complaints showed that identity thieves used stolen information to commit tax fraud or tax-related frauds. In the 2017 Identity Fraud Study released by Javelin Strategy & Research, it showed that there has been a significant increase in the number of identity fraud victims in the United State, wherein $16 billion was stolen from more than 15 million consumers in 2016 as compared to the $15.3 million of 13.1 million victims the year prior. These dismal statistics show just how much we really need to improve our identity theft safeguards.

For years, several companies have worked with the local, state, and federal governments to create a better security system. Several changes in the way we use debit and credit cards have occurred throughout the years in the hopes of diminishing this bleak situation, however, the problem still persists. Though the occurrence of tax identity thefts may never be fully addressed as long as there are miscreants who are willing to exploit others, efforts to prevent these horrible situations should still be made. If we’re willing to just roll over thinking that it’s no use, then, we’re in for something so much worse.

Taxpayers, for one, should try to file their returns as soon as they have all the required documents for filing and should be active in monitoring all of their accounts. If you’re someone who’s not very well versed when it comes to credits and finances, you can enroll in a Credit Counseling session to help you. Credit counseling is very helpful in helping individuals better manage their finances by equipping them the proper financial management tools. Aside from these, taxpayers should also be very wary of scams and be eternally suspicious of anything or anyone that tells you to disclose your personal information and SSN over the web or phone.

If taxpayers are doing something to prevent thieves from stealing their identities, the IRS should respond in kind and step up their game so that these efforts are not wasted. That said, the Congress should also provide the agency the appropriate funds and resources to be able to achieve a highly improved anti-identity theft system.

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