CHANTILLY, Va., March 8, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- With tax season well underway and identity thieves cooking up their latest scams, Intersections Inc. (Nasdaq: INTX), a leading provider of consumer and corporate identity risk management services, and provider of Identity Guard® Total Protection(SM), the award winning identity theft protection service, has compiled a list of tax season safety tips to guide consumers this year. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), more than 140 million individual tax returns will be received this year with the majority of those refunds being submitted electronically.
Tax season involves the exchange of a lot of documents and communications which contain sensitive personal information including addresses, Social Security numbers (SSN), employer information, and bank account numbers that can be used to compromise or steal the identities of their owners. Identity thieves will use various scams and schemes this year to either forcibly gain access to this information or con taxpayers into willingly and unknowingly handing it over. And with new IRS regulations, within two years, all paid tax preparers will be required to submit all returns electronically.
"Tax season scams are nothing new and the ones we've seen so far this year are a predictable rehash of previous years," said Intersections Inc.'s Consumer Security Adviser, Neal O'Farrell. "What consumers will really need to watch out for are more clever variations of these scams that are more likely to catch them off guard such as the IRS informing consumers they can expedite their refunds if they submit bank account and routing information. Most of the scams will come in the form of email or phone messages but consumers should remain vigilant that some scams can still come in the form of snail mail."
In years past, fraudsters have used a number of methods to steal or obtain personal information. Fraudsters commonly masquerade as the IRS, calling and convincing unsuspecting tax payers to turn over their Social Security or bank account numbers in order to correct a factual error in their return or expedite the deposit of their refunds. Fraudsters have also distributed emails claiming to be from the IRS with attachments or links that contain Trojans or other malware that can easily empty the victim's bank account. And it's not just the mask of the IRS that has been used to con taxpayers into handing over data: consumers need to be cautious of emails or phone calls from property tax appraisers or local county tax assessors, which could just be another mask being used by identity thieves.
In order to help taxpayers avoid even the best laid identity theft traps, Intersections wants consumers to stay safe and encourages everyone to take advantage of these tips and use extra caution and care when filing their taxes this season.
Top 13 Tips for a Safe & Secure 2010 Tax Season:
- Be suspicious of any calls or emails purporting to be from the IRS, no matter what the issue. For example, some scams claim that someone else has already filed tax returns in your name or with your SSN. The IRS will always write to you first, will rarely call, and will never email you.
- Never confirm your SSN or bank account details by email or over the phone.
- If your bank or employer has been taken over lately, be wary of any calls asking you to confirm your tax information or employment status.
- Guard your mail because it's especially attractive at tax time. Ideally, have your mail delivered to a P.O. Box and mail tax returns and sensitive information directly from the post office.
- If you plan to use an online tax preparation service, make sure you stick with a reputable one that has adequate security measures in place. And be careful when typing in the URL or web address of an online service in case you misspell the name and end up on a fraudulent site that looks like the real one. Identity Guard's ID Vault® software can help you stay safe by alerting you to questionable sites when you type in URLs.
- If you plan to use online tax preparation software and intend to keep a copy of your return on your computer, you should immediately rename your return with a different file extension. It is also highly recommended you use a USB external drive to save your information instead of storing it directly on your computer.
- Make sure your computer is free of malware like computer viruses and spyware that can steal a copy of your SSN or bank account password.
- Choose your tax preparer carefully and don't be afraid to ask them important security questions, such as how your information is protected at their offices during and after preparation, how long they will keep a copy of your tax return, and whether they conduct background checks on their employees.
- If you owe money to the IRS, try to pay online through their system. If you have to pay by check, spell out the name "Internal Revenue Service" because it's harder to forge than the letters IRS.
- Don't email tax information or returns to your accountant. Email is not a secure way to send any document.
- If you make copies of your return on a photocopying machine, be aware that many machines keep a copy of your pages in short term memory! Using photocopiers in public locations is not recommended.
- Don't forget to shred any unnecessary documents or copies when tax season is over. Dumpster divers will be on the prowl to get your banking account details and SSNs.
- Finally, check your credit report immediately after tax time and again a few months later to make sure your personal information wasn't stolen and is not being used against you.
About Intersections Inc.
Intersections Inc. (Nasdaq: INTX) is a leading provider of consumer and corporate identity risk management services. Eight million consumers are actively protected by Intersections' consumer and breach remediation services offered through North America's leading financial institutions, directly to consumers under its award-winning IDENTITY GUARD® brand (www.identityguard.com), and through its exclusive partnership with ITAC, the Identity Theft Assistance Center. Since its inception in 1996, Intersections has protected more than 30 million consumers.
SOURCE Intersections Inc.