Personal income tax returns are due April 18, but fraudsters could be trying to use your identity to commit tax fraud right now. Tax agencies nationwide are reminding taxpayers to protect their tax information throughout the year, but to be especially careful this time of year, when tax documents might be more accessible to criminals.
"Fraudsters are always looking for more information to use in submitting bogus refund claims," said Ken Ross, the head of the Oregon Department of Revenue's anti-fraud efforts. "Protecting taxpayers from identity theft goes hand-in-hand with protecting the state from tax fraud."
Ross said that fraudsters won't hesitate to grab data off an unsecured Wi-Fi network or steal the W-2 from your purse in your car, if the opportunity arises. Taxpayers keeping their own tax information secure is an important part of combating fraudsters.
What do I need to know as a taxpayer?
Protect your information
Help keep sensitive information out of the wrong hands by doing the following:
* Beware of phishing scams, where fraudsters will try to get you to share personal information by email or over the phone by pretending they already know it. Calls that ask you to "confirm" your Social Security number are a common example.
* Be cautious when using Wi-Fi. Unsecured Wi-Fi networks are a popular target for hackers, especially as more taxpayers connect their mobile devices to them.
* Change passwords frequently. Experts recommend changing passwords every 60-90 days and not using the same password in multiple places.
* Keep tax documents physically secure and inaccessible to criminals. If your tax documents aren't in your presence, keep them locked up.
* Hang up on suspicious phone calls. No matter how urgent someone makes a situation sound, you can always hang up, call the Department of Revenue at their published phone number [(503) 378-4988 or (800) 356-4222 (toll-free)], and know that you're dealing with an actual employee.
Verify your identity
Revenue staff follow up on suspicious tax returns. When you file your return, they'll send you a letter if they're not sure it's legitimate. If you get an identity verification letter, respond as soon as you can. You can verify your identity by mail or by taking an online identity verification quiz.
Report identity theft
If you think or know your identity was stolen, notify Revenue immediately using the reporting feature at www.oregon.gov/dor. You can also call (503) 947-2000. Revenue can flag your account and watch for potentially fraudulent returns and help you get your real return processed correctly. You should also flag your account with the IRS by calling (800) 908-4490.
For more information on protecting yourself or what to do if you're a victim of identity theft, visit: