Tips to protect you from tax identity theft

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Tax Day might still be a three-months away, but that doesn’t mean we’re not already in the thick of tax season.

And even more, it’s never too early to take a look at how well protected you and your information is against fraud.

In fact, January 28th – February 1st is Tax Identify Theft Awareness week.

To go over a bit more about that, as well as to give some helpful tips on keeping safe is Jon Hanai from HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union.

Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number (SSN) to get a tax refund or a job.

You might find out it’s happened when you e-file your tax return and discover that a return already has been filed using your SSN.

Or, the IRS may send you a letter saying more than one return was filed in your name, or that IRS records show you have wages from an employer you don’t know.

Thieves are unfortunately getting craftier and more advanced with their methods of fraud, but there are three common scams you want to look out for.

The first is the “collection agent” scam.

What happens is a thief using stolen information files a fraudulent tax return in your name and waits for your refund to be deposited into your bank account.

The scammer then poses as a collection agent from an IRS-affiliated agency saying the deposit was a mistake and needs to be returned.

The second is similar in that it involves “phone impersonators” posing as IRS representative threatening legal action over money they say is owed.

The scary thing is that some fraudsters are even able to alter their phone number on caller IDs to make it look as though it’s a legitimate IRS call.

The third is a “phishing” scam where you’re sent emails linking you to a seemingly legitimate and official website that’s trying to trick you into providing your personal and financial details, so they can steal your identity.

Make sure you keep your SSN private and safely store your card at home.

Provide your number and card only when it’s absolutely necessary.

Speaking of keeping safe, make sure you choose strong, unique passwords for all your logins, especially financial sites; for example, your online banking login.

You’ll also want to be sure your computer is updated with the latest spam and virus software updates.

Additionally, if you ever get rid of computers or other personal devices, make it a habit to wipe out your hard drive data.

Next, you’ll want to make sure you shred any bank or tax documents you no longer need.

You’ll also want to keep an eye on your mailbox in the event that you haven’t received something that you regularly expect.

For example, if you still get paper statements delivered, but you can’t remember receiving one recently, you may want to check with your credit union or bank to see if there hasn’t been a fraudulent change of address on your account.

You’ll also want to keep up-to-date on data breaches.

I know it might be hard to always be full-informed, but especially if it involves a company you’ve used, it’s better to be extra certain your account information hasn’t been compromised.

And lastly, if you need some help keeping on top of things, consider enrolling in a monitoring service to watch over your private information.

For example, at HawaiiUSA we have various member protection services, such as MyIDCare, offering a full range of ID theft protection and assistance if in the event something happens.

If that kind of peace of mind sounds like something you’d like to have, visit any of our branches, or find more information online at https://hawaiiusafcu.com.

As mentioned earlier, it’ll be Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week and the Federal Trade Commission is offering free webinars and chats throughout the week.

If you’re looking for some more information, visit https://hawaiiusafcu.com.

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