Your W-2s and other tax documents contain sensitive personal information that identity thieves could use to file a fraudent tax return.

It’s Tax Time! As W-2s Roll In, Protect Your Personal Information

Jan. 31 was the deadline for employers to send out W-2s, according to the Internal Revenue Service—and that means tax time is upon us. This time of year, many organizations send out important tax documents containing sensitive information, such as your Social Security number, and it’s vital to protect yourself against fraud and identity theft.

Read on to find out how you can safeguard your information and minimize the risk of becoming the next victim of identity thieves and other frauds.

Watch Your Mail

Since W-2s and other tax documents are sent out by snail mail, it’s not difficult for identity thieves to steal them and get their hands on your most sensitive financial and personal information. Identity Theft 911 reports that some thieves even follow postal workers, swipe important tax documents, copy the information and return the envelopes a few days later.

If you haven’t received your W-2 by Jan. 31, contact your employer(s). If your W-2 is still missing by Feb. 14, you should notify the IRS. The IRS will contact your employer after Feb. 14 to request the missing information.

Safeguard Hard Copies

Once you’ve received and gathered your documents for this year’s tax filing, it’s still important to keep W-2s, receipts and bank statements—or any other kind of hard-copy documents containing sensitive materials—away from people with sticky fingers. The Federal Trade Commission recommends that you file them away in a locked filing cabinet or, better yet, a safe.

If you’re en route to your accountant, don’t leave them on the seat when you leave the car to get a coffee… unless your German shepherd is your co-pilot! By removing the temptation, you reduce the chances of your documents being stolen.

Know the Warning Signs

If criminals have your Social Security number, the IRS warns they could file a tax return and claim a refund using your personal details. The IRS says the following red flags may indicate someone has filed a fraudulent tax return in your name.

  • IRS records state you’ve been paid by an employer you don’t know.
  • Two or more tax filings have been submitted in your name.
  • For a year you didn’t file a tax return, you have an outstanding balance or are notified of a collection action against you.

If you encounter any of the above, contact the IRS immediately in writing. Fill out and enclose the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039. The IRS will contact you and help you resolve the situation.

Becoming the victim of tax fraud or identity theft is a serious matter that can compromise your finances and credit status. With a little extra care and vigilance this time of year, you can protect the personal information in your tax documents.

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