The weeks leading up to April 15 – tax deadline day – are often vulnerable ones for consumers, as W-2s and tax returns containing their personal information circulate over the internet and through the mail.
According to a Javelin Strategy and Research study, 12.7 million Americans were victims of identity fraud in 2014. Though down from 2013, it remains the Federal Trade Commission’s number-one consumer complaint.
To help consumers do that, the American Bankers Association is offering the following tips:
- Don’t share your secrets.
Don’t provide your Social Security number or bank account information to anyone who contacts you online or over the phone. Neither your bank nor the IRS will contact you requesting this information.
- Beware of phishing emails.
Phishing attacks occur when criminals use ‘spoofed’ emails and fake websites of trusted organizations to coerce consumers into sharing personal information. During tax season, fraudsters often pose as the IRS. Don’t be fooled. The IRS will never initiate taxpayer contact via unsolicited email to request personal or financial data.
- Shred sensitive papers.
Shred receipts, banks statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away. Enrolling in eStatements is another way to keep papers from being misplaced. For papers you must keep, like tax documents, keep them in a secure place.
- Keep an eye out for missing mail.
Fraudsters look for monthly credit card statements, W-2s, tax refunds or other mail containing your financial information. If you don’t receive your W-2s, and your employer indicates they’ve been mailed, or it looks like it has been previously opened upon delivery, contact the IRS immediately.
- Protect your computer.
Make sure the virus protection software on your computer is active and up to date, particularly if you plan to file your taxes online. When conducting business online, make sure your browser’s padlock or key icon is active. Also look for an “s” after the “http” to be sure the website is secure.
- Use online banking to protect yourself.
Monitor your financial accounts regularly for fraudulent transactions. Sign up for text or email alerts from your bank for certain types of transactions, such as online purchases or transactions of more than $500.
- Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately.
If you are a Bank Indepenent customer, please call our Customer Service team at (256) 386-5000 or (877) 865-5050, or complete our online dispute form. Additionally, if the IRS denies your tax return because one has previously been filed under your name, alert the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.
Bank Independent's cybersecurity team is deeply committed to protecting the personal and financial information entrusted to us by our customers--and not only during tax time. For more information on our identity protection practices, plus additional tips to protect your money from fraudsters, visit our identity protection page and read our recent blog about cybercriminals.