Tax filers are unaware of identity theft risks
New survey from Experian's ProtectMyID® reveals consumers need to step up tax time protection
Costa Mesa, Calif., March 05, 2014 — This tax season, there’s more to worry about than getting an IRS audit, especially since the largest category of identity theft complaints to the FTC are tax- or wage-related1. A new survey conducted by Edelman Berland for Experian’s ProtectMyID® reveals many taxpayers are not taking the necessary precautions to safeguard personal information, putting their tax returns at risk, as shown in this video produced by the Identity Theft Council. Further, the majority of respondents are not aware of IRS efforts to help protect their identities when filing taxes.
The results of the survey reveal that 61 percent of those surveyed were not familiar with the IRS IP PIN program. The IRS Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) is a unique six-digit number, assigned annually to victims of identity theft for use when filing their federal tax return. The PIN shows that a particular taxpayer is the rightful filer of the return. It also provides an additional layer of identity protection to prevent identity-related tax fraud.
People also put their identities at risk by how they send or store their information. The survey results show that two out of three individuals store old tax documents in an unlocked place and more than half of those who file their taxes by mail do not certify their returns.
“Many tax payers aren’t taking basic steps to prevent the sensitive information listed on their tax filings from falling into the wrong hands,” said Ken Chaplin, senior vice president of marketing for Experian’s ProtectMyID. “This is the time of year when more personal and financial data circulates through the mail and over the Internet and consumers need to exercise extra vigilance when protecting their identities.”
• Fifty-seven percent of participants say they are familiar with tax-related identity theft.
• Sixty-four percent of participants were not concerned about tax preparers losing their personal data.
• Forty-four percent of participants indicated they filed taxes electronically, while 35 percent of participants had a tax specialist prepare and e-file their tax return.
• Ninety-one percent of those filing taxes electronically used a device that had antivirus protection.
• Fifty-four percent of participants are concerned about becoming a victim of tax-related identity fraud, but just 44 percent of participants would know to report it to the IRS.
Protecting your assets
Experian’s ProtectMyID recommends the following tips to help safeguard your identity during tax time:
• Place tax documents in a secure location, such as a safe or a locking file cabinet, and store them there until needed to prepare tax forms. Do not leave them in a car.
• Some tax apps require users to take photos of W2 forms. Be sure to delete images after use.
• Password-protect your smartphone.
• Do not follow links in emails or text messages to the IRS site — always type “irs.gov” directly into a browser to avoid vicious links. Report fraudulent IRS emails, texts or phone calls to email@example.com.
• Keep operating systems and all computer protection software up to date.
• Do not use public computers to e-file taxes.
• Ask tax preparers about computer security measures employed by their offices.
• Don’t work with tax preparers who ask clients to sign blank tax returns.
• Wipe the hard drive before disposing of or donating an old computer that contains personal or financial information.
• Monitor credit reports regularly.
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About the survey
The national study surveyed 1,000 tax filing adults on issues related to their understanding of tax-related identity theft and protection. This survey was conducted online within the United States by Edelman Berland on behalf of Experian during February 4 through 10, 2014, among 1,000 adults ages 18 and older residing throughout the United States. This online survey is not based on a probability sample; therefore, no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Experian’s ProtectMyID
ProtectMyID is a leading, full-service provider of identity theft detection, protection and resolution. ProtectMyID offers comprehensive identity theft protection features supported by experienced identity theft resolution professionals who deliver personal attention that customers can rely on. ProtectMyID.com® is a website owned by ConsumerInfo.com®, Inc., an Experian company. For more information about how ProtectMyID helps consumers protect themselves against identity theft, please visit http://www.ProtectMyID.com.
Experian® is a leading global information services company, providing data and analytical tools to clients around the world. The Group helps businesses to manage credit risk, prevent fraud, target marketing offers and automate decision making. Experian also helps individuals to check their credit report and credit score, and protect against identity theft.
Experian plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange (EXPN) and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 index. Total revenue for the year ended March 31, 2013, was US$4.7 billion. Experian employs approximately 17,000 people in 40 countries and has its corporate headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, with operational headquarters in Nottingham, UK; California, US; and São Paulo, Brazil.
For more information, visit http://www.experianplc.com.