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Preventing Tax Fraud and Identity Theft

When it comes to filing taxes, there are plenty of reasons to file early instead of waiting until the last minute. The two most obvious are to get your refund back sooner, if you are receiving one, and to avoid long lines in the early-April post office rush.

One of the most compelling and more surprising reasons to file your tax return early, however, may be beating the would be thieves to the punch.

With the sharp increase in transactions requiring the sharing of confidential data online and off, tax season is one of the most opportune times for criminals to steal personal data, or capitalize on the information they have already obtained. Filing early may be your best defense.

Fraudulent Tax Returns Are More Common Than You Think

A criminal can use your stolen social security number or personal tax identification number to fraudulently file a tax return in your name. They cash in by having your refund re-routed to a different address or bank account.

“The sooner you file your return, the less opportunity someone else has to file a return in your name,” says Tim Francis, Enterprise Cyber Lead for Travelers.

According to a report in CNN Money, the IRS paid out $3.6 billion in fraudulent tax refunds in 2013, and caught 12.6 million suspicious returns over the past two years.* Unfortunately, many victims discover that their identity has been stolen only after a fraudulent claim is filed. It takes an average of three months for victims of tax return fraud to receive their refunds while the IRS works to resolve the issue. Read more

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