You're careful when it comes to your identity. Bank and credit card statements are always shredded, you cover your hand when entering a pin number and never give personal information over the phone. But, identity theft is still on the rise and tax-related theft is one of the fastest growing forms according to the Identity Theft Resource Center.

Don’t wait until it’s too late, use these tips from Farm Bureau Financial Services' identity protection provider CyberScout® to protect yourself and your tax refund.

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Taxpayers are facing a surge in tax identity theft cases. Federal regulators are doing their part on crack down on fraud, but consumers must take steps to protect themselves. 

Protect yourself and your refund with these tips: 

1. File Early.
The IRS will always flag a second return as suspicious, so filing early makes it more likely for the fake return to be flagged and not yours. 

2. Go electronic.
Opt for direct deposit of tax refunds to avoid lost or stolen refund checks. 

3. Choose tax preparers carefully.
Many fraud rings front as tax preparation companies that may steal personal information or redirect your return. 

4. Paranoid is the new black.
Store sensitive tax information on a password-protected or encrypted external drive or disk and keep it in a secured location. 

5. Don't respond to unsolicited requests for personal information.
The IRS never communicates via unsolicited email. Forward any suspicious emails to phishing@irs.gov.  

If your tax return is filed fraudulently, you can expect your refund to be delayed by a week or more and diminished customer services via the IRS Help Line. 

By The Numbers

  • Average time it's taken for the IRS to resolve claims: 278 days1
  • Average number of fraudulent returns filed per year (2013-2015): +2 million2
  • Amount paid to tax return fraudsters in 2013: $5.8 billion3

 

Sources:

​1 “What the IRS Isn’t Telling You About Identity Theft,” USA Today, January 2016.

​2 “Interim Results for the 2016 Filing Season,” Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, March 2016.

3 “Interim Results for the 2016 Filing Season,” Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, March 2016.