Roughly one in six Americans, especially Millennial men ages 18-34, would rather get a root canal than do their taxes. More than one in three Americans feel that filing taxes is worse than having to floss.
LifeLock, a Symantec company, shared findings from its recent survey conducted online by Harris Poll which found nearly a quarter of Americans say they tend to wait until the last minute to file taxes, with baby boomers ages 55-64 more likely than younger generations to procrastinate (32% vs. 20% of those ages 18-54).
This year tax return procrastination could be dangerous.
For criminals, tax-fraud is the ultimate crime to commit. It’s easy for the criminal to mask their location in order to avoid ever being caught, and it’s also physically safer to commit than many other forms of crimes. The potential payoff of tax fraud is far more than many criminals could ever hope to make with other run-of-the-mill crimes.
So what does a criminal need to file a fake tax return? Unbeknownst to many, all a thief needs is a person’s Social Security number, name, and date of birth to file a fake tax return. This information is often stolen from data breaches and email phishing scams.
Tax refund fraud is one of the biggest challenges facing the IRS. In 2016, the IRS identified approximately $4.1 billion in suspected identity theft related to tax-refund fraud. Still, it’s not a crime that many Americans recognize, according to the LifeLock survey. In fact, 27% of Americans said they have never heard of tax-related identity fraud prior to participating in the survey, including 36% of Millennials ages 18-34.
The good news is there are actions individuals can take to secure their personal information:
• Contact the IRS to see if you’re eligible for an Identity Protection PIN which is a six-digit code assigned to you by the IRS to help prevent misuse of your social security number on fraudulent federal income tax returns.
• Watch out for fake “phishing” emails disguised as sent by the IRS, and if you receive one, forward it to [email protected] The IRS will never contact you by email, text, or social media. If the IRS needs information, it will contact you by regular mail.
• Don’t use public Wi-Fi hotspots to file your tax returns online. Just because a public Wi-Fi hotspot requires a password does not mean that your data is safe from an attacker on the same network.
• Monitor your credit cards for unauthorized charges, as well as your credit report for new accounts that you didn’t open. Fraudulent activity may indicate that you’re at higher risk of further fraud, including stolen tax refunds.
• Store copies of tax returns in a safe place and shredding all paper documents no longer needed such as tax paperwork older than four years.