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Financial Planning
Jan 2023

National Tax Identity Theft Week

By Ken Cranstone, CFP®

Your mailbox is starting to fill with W2s, K-1s, 1099s, and all sorts of other tax documents, which means that tax season is beginning. With so much sensitive personal information floating around, it is critical to remember that this is a big time of year for crooks looking to steal information to come out in full force.

Coincidentally, January 30th marks the start of National Tax Identity Theft Week. This week is to raise awareness that identity theft can disrupt your financial picture and that we should all be on alert for scams and scammers.

Don’t Just Do Something! Wait.

Each year frauds will take on different shapes and sizes, but a central theme remains consistent; scammers want you to act, and they want you to act now. You might get a call from an “agent from the IRS” threatening to put a lien on your assets if you do not provide some tax information immediately, or maybe a “representative from the Social Security Administration” is calling to tell you that your identity was stolen and they need details to confirm that you are the real you. Yes, when put in the context of this note, the requests seem silly and obvious, but in practice, the scammers will sound confident enough to make us second-guess ourselves.

Maybe the email has the IRS emblem at the top corner, or the caller ID reads, “Social Security Administration”. The person on the other end of the line is also not demanding your information to steal it. On they contrary, they sound like they want to help protect you from something unpleasant. We need to resist the urge to take action. The more time we have to think through a situation, the more likely the ruse will unwind.

Weak Links Break Chains

The technological landscape is changing so rapidly that it can be hard to keep pace. This unfortunately poses problems for those who are less technologically perceptive. Cybersecurity protocols can often feel unwieldy and unnecessary to those unfamiliar with their benefits. Yes, a 14-character password that uses capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols is cumbersome to devise. Using two-factor authentication can feel exasperating when you need to log into an account quickly. However, what is a hurdle for you, can be a mountain for a hacker to break through.

If you haven’t done so already, consider using a password manager, setting up two-factor authentication for your devices, adding security settings to your home wifi router, and using virtual private networks (VPNs) when connecting to public wifi.

Don’t Dwell On Mistakes

Against all of our best efforts, we can all fall victim to scams. Mistakes happen, and sometimes it feels foolish to admit that you gave away personal details to someone that, in hindsight, seemed obviously malicious. That is part of their playbook because the longer you delay pursuing corrective action, the more difficult it becomes to resolve.

  1. Your one stop-shop for reporting identity theft and building a recovery plan –
  2. Tips and tricks to identify theft and protect yourself online –
  3. Learn more about the latest consumer advice and scams –

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