Tax-time fraud precautions: 3 powerful “don’ts”

IRS hackers have struck again. Exposed or not, your personal information may benefit now from these 3 precautions.

We’re in the thick of tax time, which is typically a stressful occasion. Unfortunately this year’s filing deadline, like those in recent years, may be fraught with even more stress for some. That’s because it was revealed last month that personal information was exposed by a data breach at the IRS. Fortunately, we’ve put together 3 precautionary “don’ts” to help you minimize your risk of tax fraud.

1. Don’t procrastinate.

Taxes are a pain, but putting them off only increases your risk. If your personal information were to be exposed, you’d want to beat thieves to the tax-filing punch—act now before they would have an opportunity to file in your place and steal your refund. For this reason, put filing taxes at the very top of your to-do list.

2. Don’t click on IRS email links or answer IRS calls.

Part of the reason the IRS has notified recent breach victims by snail mail is the agency doesn’t reach out to taxpayers by phone, email or other channels. This is a good thing because it means you should always ignore contact from the IRS that doesn’t come in an envelope. If you need to communicate with someone at the IRS, initiate contact through officially verified channels.

3. Don’t feel bad about asking your tax professional tough questions.

If you engage a service to help file or prepare your taxes, make sure they have good data safeguards in place because their business could also be a data breach target. Your tax filer or preparer should make you feel comfortable with their services.

One final bonus: don’t panic. Tax season can make anyone throw up their hands in despair, but especially in stressful times, it pays to keep a cool head. Just think, there’s even more of an incentive now to get filing over-with, paying what you owe or receiving your long-awaited refund.