Last year, more than 2,100 identities were stolen every single day, or 787,000 a year. But we don’t really seem to care.
Despite the high risk, ID theft services company CyberScout says nearly 60 percent of Americans aren’t phased by the idea of tax fraud. The Survey also says that with so many identities stolen last year, the possibility is open for $4 billion of fraud.
“We’ve reached an extreme level of cybercrime where Identity Theft has become the third certainty in life,” says Adam Levin, founder and chairman of CyberScout. “In tax season, it is crucial that everyone remain vigilant and on high alert to avoid tax-related identity theft or phishing schemes.”
That cybercrime can spill over from the internet. The survey says more than half of Americans — 51 percent — who expect a physical refund check are putting their refunds at risk by not using a locked mailbox.
The biggest tax offenders: procrastinators
Most Americans aren’t concerned about tax fraud, but that could be because they don’t know they are putting themselves at high risk. One-third of Americans are using two-factor authentication with their tax preparers, meaning the rest of us are staying with our password-only option. These aren’t actually protecting us. Scammers pick up our passwords easily, making our information more vulnerable.
The early bird may get the worm and the tax refund check sooner, but they’re also saving themselves a huge headache. More than half of consumers will file in late March and into April. This is when tax scammers are spending the most time hunting for and stealing personal information, not to mention their refunds, the survey says.
Unfortunately, another big offender is ignorance. According to the survey, half of all American taxpayers who use a preparation service aren’t sure how to evaluate them. Choosing a preparer blindly opens up a host of scamming opportunities. Whether you’re using an in-person service or an online tool, if you haven’t taken the steps to make sure they are authenticated and a real service, you may be handing your personal information (and your well-deserved refund!) over to scammers.
How to protect your data, today and tomorrow
“Tax season is one of the most common times for identity fraud to take place, making it even more important for consumers to take the proper safety measures,” the survey says. But you can take steps before you even file to ensure you’re safe.
CyberScout offers a few ways to keep your safety top-of-mind:
- Make sure your passwords are long and strong. Make sure you aren’t using the same password for your tax preparation service as any other password online, like your email account!
- Sign up for direct deposit whenever possible so you don’t run the risk of having your check scooped up in the mail before it even gets to you.
- Make sure your security questions are difficult and answers are somewhere safe. Keep a lookout to make sure your social media accounts aren’t linked to your preparation services anywhere — if scammers can figure out your tax information, they may be able to figure out your other online logins. This not only goes for social accounts, but also bank accounts.
- Don’t ever use an unsecure Wi-Fi connection. Make sure you’re on a secure line, which you should always be on if you’re at home.
- Remember the IRS will never call you or email you, so do not answer or give authentication to anyone who claims to be IRS through these methods.