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Don’t become a victim: preventing tax return fraud

Our world is, as you know, an increasingly electronic one. Our medical records are digital, as are banking transactions, bill paying, vital statistics information (like birth certificates, addresses, social security numbers), credit history and more.

As more and more institutions convert sensitive documentation to an electronic format, the potential grows for data breaches and unauthorized access. Unfortunately, hackers are getting smarter and more efficient at stealing this information as well.

We’ve all seen the huge impact of mass data breaches in recent years, with major corporations like Target, Anthem and Yahoo suffering cyberattacks that put user information at risk. Earlier this year, credit company Equifax revealed a huge breach that released the credit history, banking information, social security numbers, vital statistics, employment history and addresses of over 143 million Americans.

Because of the potential long-term impact of the Equifax breach, particularly how it could lead to tax return and employment fraud for years down the road. The potential for long-term impact exists due to the permanent nature of our most vital of information; we are issued social security numbers at birth (or after obtaining U.S. citizenship). That number follows us our entire lives, as does – obviously – our birth date, two of the key pieces of data used to establish credit, file tax returns, create an employment history and more.

Helping prevent fraud

Surprisingly, the easiest way to prevent tax return fraud, according to experts, is to file your returns early. The earlier you file, the less likely it is that a criminal can beat you to the proverbial punch. Should a scammer file first, then your return will be flagged, and your refund delayed while an investigation occurs.

If you do become the victim of tax return fraud, an audit may be in your future. You also face an uphill battle to reclaim your identity. An experienced tax attorney can stand by your side throughout the process, representing you to IRS agents and helping you fight back against identity thieves.

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