‘They can literally go get a house in your name’ | How to stay safe from cyber-attacks during Tax Season

Local experts say it’s crucial to take all the precautions you can because cyber-attacks are at a peak right now.

TEXAS, USA — Tax filing season is on its way and so is cyber crime! That’s why experts are warning people on how to avoid tax scams so they can protect themselves and their loved ones.

The IRS reported that for individual tax returns, 93.8% were filed electronically last tax season

While filing your taxes online can be convenient, it also makes people more vulnerable to scams.

“Cybersecurity is at its height now,” Jason Meza with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) said. “Especially during this time of year.”

With tax season beginning, more and more people are at risk, and the consequences can be severe.

“It takes a few years to get it straightened out if somebody hijacks your information and does your taxes with it,” Lisa Comeau with Liberty Tax said. “The other one is that they can literally take over. They can go get a house in your name. They can open bank accounts in your name, they can open credit cards in your name, and you will be fighting for years to get that cleared up.”

Precautions are more important than ever, so how can you stay safe?

“The best way to avoid tax ID theft is to file early,” Meza said. “Get that going before a scammer has a chance to use your information.”

There can be many red flags.

“Those unsolicited texts or emails requesting data for that information,” Meza added. “Protect your personal identifiable information: your social, your date of birth, things like that that can be cross referenced very easily.”

When uploading documents, make sure your internet connection is secure.

Dr. Abhijit Nag is an associate professor in the Subhani Department of Computer Information Systems at Texas A&M University-Central Texas. He says it’s best to avoid any type of hotspot or public Wi-Fi.

Nag recommends changing your passwords frequently. Enabling multi-factor authentication will help too. 

“That way, if anyone tries to access your account, you will actually get notified,” Nag added. “These cyber criminals are much more adverse with trying to get your information.”

You can also set up an identity protection PIN from the IRS.

“What that does is, each year, the IRS emails out a PIN to you that is unique only to you,” Comeau said. “If somebody tries to transmit a return underneath your name, it will reject it because it does not have that identity PIN.”

Keep in mind the IRS does not contact taxpayers by text message or email to request personal or financial information.

“They will most likely go through regular mail delivered by the Postal Service,” Meza said.

If you are using a tax preparation service, make sure they are trustworthy.

“Be on the lookout,” Meza said. “Have your guard up.”

The BBB says if you have been scammed or are receiving potential attacks, let them and other agencies like the IRS know.

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