Procrastination may be putting taxpayers at risk for
tax-related identity fraud
SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–LifeLock, a Symantec company and leading provider of proactive identity
theft protection services, today unveiled findings from its recent
survey* conducted online by Harris Poll, examining individual sentiment
about paying taxes and awareness of tax-related identity fraud.
Since Americans seem to genuinely dislike having to file and pay taxes,
many procrastinate on getting them done, but delaying might put
taxpayers at greater risk for identity fraud—when someone uses a
person’s stolen personal information to file and claim a tax return. The
March survey found that:
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 percent vs. 20 percent of
those ages 18-54).
Roughly one in six Americans (16 percent), especially Millennial men
ages 18-34 (29 percent), would rather get a root canal than do their
More than one in three Americans (35 percent) feel that filing taxes
is worse than having to floss.
“Much like having dental work done, filing taxes can be a painful
experience—especially if you become a victim of tax-related identity
fraud,” said Joe Gervais, LifeLock’s security communications director.
“Submitting fraudulent tax returns in your name and claiming the refund
is a relatively easy thing for criminals to do, so the earlier you file,
the less likely someone else may beat you to the punch.”
For criminals, tax-fraud is the ultimate crime to commit, explains Eva
Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center.
“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
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
percent of Americans said they have never heard of tax-related identity
fraud prior to participating in the survey, including 36 percent of
Millennials ages 18-34.
“It’s nearly impossible to detect tax-related identity fraud before a
person files their taxes but there are ways to help protect yourself,”
said Gervais. “Taxpayers need to be careful about what personal
information they share online and with financial institutions since any
shared personal data can potentially be stolen and used to commit
tax-related identity fraud.”
The good news is there are actions individuals can take to secure their
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@example.com.
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.
*This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris
Poll on behalf of LifeLock from March 16-20, 2017 among 2,198 U.S.
adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a
probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling
error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including
weighting variables, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
and for more tips about reducing the risk for tax-related and other
identity fraud, visit LifeLock’s blog.
Symantec Corporation (NASDAQ: SYMC), the world’s leading cyber security
company, helps organizations, governments and people secure their most
important data wherever it lives. Organizations across the world look to
Symantec for strategic, integrated solutions to defend against
sophisticated attacks across endpoints, cloud and infrastructure.
Likewise, a global community of more than 50 million people and families
rely on Symantec’s Norton and LifeLock
product suites to protect their digital lives at home and across their
devices. Symantec operates one of the world’s largest civilian cyber
intelligence networks, allowing it to see and protect against the most
advanced threats. For additional information, please visit www.symantec.com or
connect with us on Facebook, Twitter,