Tips to avoid tax identity theft

Tips to avoid tax identity theft

We're rounding the final stretch of tax season with just under a month until Tax Day.

But filing on time--isn't the only thing you need to worry about. Tax-related identity theft is on the rise.

The IRS reported almost 650,000 identity-theft cases in 2012.

Hem Vaidia with Smart Tax said the crime typically occurs through the mail.

"A lot of tax checks, Social Security numbers, come through the mail, sometimes this gets stolen… People just steal checks right out of the mailbox," Vaidia said.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, thieves use stolen Social Security numbers on job applications so they don't have to claim their earnings.

Thieves may also use the information to snag tax refunds.

Vaidia said if two weeks have passed and you haven't received your refund--it's time to give the IRS a call.

"Call up the IRS, see why there is the delay. If they don't have any back taxes, there is no reason why it shouldn't come in a reasonable time," Vaidia said.

Citizens can also file their taxes online.

"E-filing is relatively safe," Vaidia said.

Vaidia said most companies have secure networks making it relatively risk-free.

But filing from your own computer might not ensure the same protections.

"They don't have good security systems in place, good firewalls, networks are not secured," Vaidia said.

Vaidia recommends shredding any mail, pay stubs, bills, or any other document that contains sensitive material.

"Don't just throw your mail without looking. Don't let your name and address go out together," Vaidia said.

The IRS said you should also beware of any electronic messages you receive from someone claiming to be the IRS and requesting financial information.

The IRS does not communicate through email, text messages, or social media.

If you suspect any fraudulent activity, call the IRS immediately.

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