The IRS and the New York Department of Taxation and Finance remind taxpayers to be vigilant against scammers and identity thieves.
1. Be wary of aggressive phone scams. Remember, the IRS and the New York Tax department will contact you by mail first and will never threaten you over the phone or demand payment be made through Moneygram, Western Union, or other wire-transfer services; or using Tunes, Greendot, or other cash or gift cards.
2. Avoid phishing scams. Taxpayers may receive emails with authentic-looking government logos that offer assistance in settling fake tax issues. The NYS Tax Department and IRS will never request personal or financial information be emailed.
3. Protect your computer. Ensure that your computer is secure when accessing your financial accounts online by looking for “https,” with an “s” after the “http,” in the website address.
4. Use strong passwords. Don’t use your name, birth date, or common words. Use a different password for each of your accounts.
5. Use secure wireless networks. Always encrypt your wireless network with a strong password. Never access your personal accounts on a public Wi-Fi network.
6. Review bank accounts and statements. Check your credit-card and banking statements regularly to spot any suspicious activity.
7. Review credit reports annually. Review each of your credit reports annually to spot any new lines of credit that you didn’t apply for or authorize.
8. Think before you post. The more information and photos you share via social media, including current and past addresses, or names of relatives, can provide scammers possible answers to your security questions or otherwise help them access your accounts.
9. Secure tax documents. Store hard copies of your Federal and NYS tax returns in a safe place. Digital copies should also be saved. Shred documents that contain personal information before throwing them away.
10. Review and respond to all IRS and NYS Department communications. You should review and respond to all notices sent. Any unexpected correspondence can be a potential sign that your identity has been stolen. It’s important that you contact the IRS or the NYS Tax Department immediately to confirm any liabilities.
While identity theft can happen to anyone, these are some things you can do to reduce your risk.
Barry Lisak is an IRS Enrolled Agent, meaning that he has passed special U.S. Treasury Department exams that qualify him to represent clients dealing with audits or tax-resolution cases. Any questions can be directed to him at (516) TAX-SAVE, or firstname.lastname@example.org.