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Survey Finds Taxpayers Not Taking Necessary Steps to Protect their Identity
Wednesday, March 5, 2014 6:55 AM

A new survey released today by Experian finds that many taxpayers are not taking necessary precautions to safeguard personal information this tax season.

The results of the survey reveal that 61 percent of those surveyed were not familiar with the IRS IP PIN program. The IRS Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) is a unique six-digit number, assigned annually to victims of identity theft for use when filing their federal tax return. The PIN shows that a particular taxpayer is the rightful filer of the return. It also provides an additional layer of identity protection to prevent identity-related tax fraud.

People also put their identities at risk by how they send or store their information. The survey results show that two out of three individuals store old tax documents in an unlocked place and more than half of those who file their taxes by mail do not certify their returns.

Other highlights of the survey:

  • Fifty-seven percent of participants say they are familiar with tax-related identity theft.
  • Sixty-four percent of participants were not concerned about tax preparers losing their personal data.
  • Forty-four percent of participants indicated they filed taxes electronically, while 35 percent of participants had a tax specialist prepare and e-file their tax return.
  • Ninety-one percent of those filing taxes electronically used a device that had antivirus protection.
  • Fifty-four percent of participants are concerned about becoming a victim of tax-related identity fraud, but just 44 percent of participants would know to report it to the IRS.

To protect their identity, consumers should:

  • Place tax documents in a secure location
  • Password-protect their smartphone
  • Do not follow links in emails or text messages to the IRS site — always type “irs.gov” directly into a browser to avoid vicious links
  • Report fraudulent IRS emails, texts or phone calls to phishing@irs.gov
  • Keep operating systems and all computer protection software up to date
  • Do not use public computers to e-file taxes
  • Ask tax preparers about computer security measures employed by their offices
  • Don’t work with tax preparers who ask clients to sign blank tax returns
  • Wipe the hard drive before disposing of or donating an old computer that contains personal or financial information
  • Monitor credit reports regularly