Even though tax fraud shows no sign of slowing down, Americans are failing to take simple precautions to best protect their personal information.
A new report from the data security firm IDT911 found that tax-related fraud cases soared 154 percent from 2014 to 2015 and doesn’t seem to be tapering off. Losses from tax refund fraud will hit an estimated $21 billion by the end of 2016.
The Internal Revenue Service has already released an alert for email tax scams after phishing and malware incidents skyrocketed this year by around 400 percent. These bogus emails, designed to look like they’re from the IRS or another legitimate entity, ask for information related to filing status, PINs, refunds and personal information, among other topics. The alert reminds taxpayers that the IRS doesn’t send emails.
But despite the disturbing statistics, most Americans are ignoring the risks and choosing not to take necessary precautions. Nearly one in five survey respondents filing from home haven’t put a password on their home Wi-Fi, making them an easy target for hackers. A little under half of Americans don’t lock their mailboxes when they’re expecting a tax refund in the mail.
In addition, more than a third say that they’re unfamiliar with how to determine if a tax preparer is qualified. And despite experts advising people to file as early as possible to limit the window for potential identity thieves, a mere 12 percent of people planned on filing their taxes in January.
Adam Levin, chairman and founder of IDT911, listed three key tactics consumers need to take to tackle fraud: “Minimize the risk of exposure, monitor their accounts on a daily basis, and manage the damage if they do become victims of identity theft by using resolution resources provided by banks, credit unions, insurance providers and the HR departments of their employers.”