CHANTILLY, Va. (3/18/10)--Intersections, a CUNA Strategic Service provider, has tips credit unions can share with their members on how to protect themselves from identity theft this tax season. Tax time involves the distribution and exchange of documents and communications with sensitive personal information including addresses, Social Security numbers, employer information and bank account numbers. “The tax time scams we can expect to see this year will generally be a rehash of years past,” said Neal O’Farrell, Intersections consumer security adviser. “What will be different, however, is the increased level of sophistication used by identity thieves and fraudsters. We can expect more clever variations of these scams that will prey on fear, urgency or greed.” Intersections advises credit unions to remind their members to:
* Be suspicious of any calls or e-mails purporting to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS will always write first--will rarely call, and will never e-mail; * Never confirm a Social Security number or bank account detail over the phone or by e-mail; * Be wary of calls asking to confirm tax information or employment status; * Have mail delivered to the front door instead of a curbside mailbox. Collect mail as soon as possible and avoid putting returns in a curbside mailbox--take them to a post office; * Use reputable online tax preparation services and avoid e-mails offering services because they are often bogus; * Ensure computers are free of malware that can steal a Social Security number or bank account password; * Choose tax preparers carefully and don’t be afraid to ask them important security questions, such as how information is protected in their offices during and after preparation, how long they keep copies of tax returns and whether they conduct background checks on employees; * Pay the IRS online if possible. If paying by check, spell out the name “Internal Revenue Service” because it’s harder to forge than IRS; * Avoid e-mailing tax returns or information to accountants; * Avoid using photocopiers for tax returns in public areas; * Shred unnecessary documents or copies when tax season ends; * Ensure computers are password-protected if tax returns are saved on them; and * Check credit reports after tax time to make sure that if personal information was stolen, it is not being used fraudulently.