Good morning, and happy Friday!!!! Man, that feels good to say. With Valentine’s day on the horizon and a possible 3 day weekend, this is certainly a good Friday (as if there is such thing as a bad Friday). Since it’s officially the most wonderful time of the year, I figured we could take a few minutes to talk about everyone’s favorite subject – taxes! With company data breaches on the rise, there is a lot of concern regarding stolen identities and falsified tax returns (someone else filing your tax return and receiving your refund). Which leads me to the second Finance Friday topic:
#2 – How to protect your Identity and your tax refund
Employers are at an increasing risk of security breeches that result in personal employee data being stolen. When a malicious person has your company’s information and your personal information (i.e., social security number), the results can be devastating. But there are precautions you can take to protect yourself on a daily basis.
1. File your taxes as soon as possible
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is the best way to guarantee that someone else doesn’t steal your information and file a fictitious return in your name. Sadly, if someone else files a tax return under your identity it is not a short process to attempt to correct. The IRS simply doesn’t have the resources to launch a speedy investigation and get you your refund (and let’s be honest, their business is not exactly driven by customer satisfaction).
2. Make sure you receive your W-2
Companies have until February 2, 2015 to send W-2 tax document information (the statement that tells you how much you earned in 2014), and you should receive one from each company you received compensation from in 2014. If you still have not received this documentation, contact your employer. Not only do you need this information to file a speedy return, but if your employer claims to have sent it and it seems to have vanished that may be a red flag.
3. Protect your identity year-round… buy a paper shredder!
One very simple way to protect your identity year round is to be aware of the documents you are throwing away. An average day’s mail includes many documents with personal information including credit card offers, sometimes even blank checks ready to be signed!! I cringe when I receive something like this, and promptly shred it to pieces. It just screams identity fraud risk. If you have a fire pit – even better. Call me paranoid, but all it takes is one time.
4. Monitor your credit score
If you haven’t seen your credit score in a while, take advantage of one of one of those obnoxious free credit score commercials and make sure everything checks out. Ever seen the movie Identity Thief?
5. Do your duty to keep your company’s information safe
If you have the capability to log on to your company’s network from a remote location you are an additional risk to every employee at your company. Be aware of your surroundings! Make sure you do not leave your computer unattended, always log out and be sure to use strong passwords. Also be aware of the internet source you are using, there are many malicious individuals and programs out there designed to hack computer information, and logging in from a sketchy internet source is a great way to put your private information at risk.
6. What to do if you suspect identity theft or tax return fraud
If you suspect someone has filed a fraudulent tax return in your name, contact the IRS as soon as possible.
If you suspect your identity has been stolen, there is a long list of checks and notifications that need to be performed (and if you ask me it looks pretty terrifying and grueling). This Federal Trade Commission pdf is a great place to start:
On that note, have a great weekend and file those taxes!