The Federal Trade Commission reports tax-related fraud is among the most common forms of identity theft. How this works is a criminal obtains your Social Security Number which they use to file a fraudulent tax return.

Along with this being a frustrating experience on your part, it could prevent you from obtaining your tax refunds. To curtail this from happening, here’s how you can protect your identity:

Protect your Social Security Number. Refrain from carrying your Social Security card in your wallet or purse, where thieves could have easy access if you lose either item. Moreover, you’ll want to store your Social Security card and any documents containing your SSN in a secure place such as a lock box or safe.

Don’t fall for phishing scams. One of the ways criminals target people is by pretending to be the IRS or a state tax department. They might call or email you stating something is wrong with your return and they’re requesting further information.

Keep in mind the IRS won’t ever call you nor will state tax departments unless you called them first. Almost all tax correspondences go through the mail, so if you’re receiving an email or call, it’s a safe bet it’s a thief.

Keep your computer protected. More people are filing their tax returns online. And if you choose this option, it’s important to keep your device’s software updated and have an anti-virus program installed on it. This program can identify malicious code, quarantine it, and delete it before it compromises your device.

You can also use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to keep your data encrypted from prying eyes. This prevents hackers from snooping on your online activity and stealing your information.

Monitor your IRS account. You can set up your IRS account online for free through its website. From there, you can monitor your account and see when you’ve filed returns. And if you ever see a return you didn’t file, you can call the IRS Identity Protection Unit at 1-800-908-4490.

Meanwhile, tax time represents an excellent chance to give your insurance policies a fresh look. Contact an independent Cole Harrison agent today to ensure you have the financial protection you need.

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