Three steps to protect your identity during tax season

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — CPA Jamie Block of the New York State Society of CPAs said Monday there are three steps everyone can take to protect their identity during tax season.

“The first thing is to actually freeze your credit with the three credit reporting agencies – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax,” Block said. “Before you freeze your credit, make sure you run your credit report. You actually get a free credit report from each of those agencies during the year. And if you run your credit you can make sure that everything looks okay and so forth. The website for that is AnnualCreditReport.com. And once you freeze your credit, you can no longer actually get credit. So if you’re trying to apply for a mortgage or refinance, anything like that, you have to unfreeze your credit in order to do that.”

The second step is to take advantage of Informed Delivery. “You can go to the U.S. Postal Service web site and sign up for Informed Delivery,” explained Block. “The Postal Service will take an actual scanned image of your mail that you’re supposed to receive and email it to you. So you can see, okay, I’m supposed to get my refund check, or a big piece of mail or something important, you’ll see when it’s going to be delivered. And if you don’t get it, then you know something’s up between when the post office had it and your mailbox.”

The third step is to receive an electronic PIN number from the IRS. “You get a code and you have to give it to your tax preparer and the IRS will not accept your return without that code,” said Block. “That will help prevent other people from filing a fraudulent return with your Social Security number and stealing your refund.” Go to IRS.gov.

Block also said beware of phishing emails – especially from the IRS. She explained the IRS will contact you by paper mail, never by email. If you receive an email that appears to be from the IRS it’s fraudulent. Do not open it or click on any links.

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