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Security & privacy

One important reason to file your taxes this week

The IRS officially kicked off this year’s tax season on Jan. 27. You have until Wednesday, April 15 to file your taxes unless you request an extension.

Even though tax season just began, scammers are already out in full force. Tap or click here to see some of the fast-spreading tax scams.

While taxes are probably the last thing on your mind right now, it’s something that you should not put off. In fact, it would be best to file this week. Why? Because your identity may be in danger.

The threats are real and they are everywhere

Cybercriminals are ruthless and will do whatever it takes to steal your information. They constantly update their schemes to trick victims and throw authorities off their trails.

Crooks use tools like phishing emails, spoofed websites and spyware to steal your personally identifiable information (PII), which then can be used to steal your identity. Believe it or not, they also target your tax return.

RELATED: Malware spreads new wave of tax scams

The IRS describes tax-related identity theft as: “When someone uses your stolen personal information, including your Social Security number (SSN), to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund.”

Now, if you think you’re a victim of tax-related identity theft, the IRS says to continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must file a paper return. That way you’re covered after the mess is finally cleared up.

Signs of tax-related identity theft

You may not know you’re a victim of identity theft until you’re notified by the IRS of a possible issue with your return.

RELATED: Social Security scams are spreading like wildfire

Here are some signs to watch for, according to the IRS:

  • You get a letter from the IRS inquiring about a suspicious tax return you did not file.
  • You can’t e-file your tax return because of a duplicate Social Security number.
  • You get a tax transcript in the mail you did not request.
  • You get an IRS notice that an online account has been created in your name.
  • You get an IRS notice that your existing online account has been accessed or disabled when you took no action.
  • You get an IRS notice that you owe additional tax or refund offset, or that you have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.
  • IRS records indicate you received wages or other income from an employer you did not work for.

There are steps you can take if your Social Security number or other PII is compromised. If your SSN is compromised and you know or suspect you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, the IRS recommends the following actions:

  • Respond immediately to any IRS notice: Call the number provided.
  • If your e-filed return is rejected because of a duplicate filing under your SSN, or if the IRS instructs you to do so, complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. Use a fillable form at IRS.gov, print, then attach the form to your return and mail your return according to instructions.
  • Visit IdentityTheft.gov for steps you should take right away to protect yourself and your financial accounts.
  • If you think someone has filed a fraudulent return in your name, you can get a copy of the return. Tap or click here to see instructions for requesting a copy of fraudulent returns.

Those are steps to take after you’ve already become a victim of identity theft. But, you shouldn’t wait until it’s too late and your identity is already compromised. Instead, you should have a trusted company protecting your identity. We recommend our sponsor, Identity Guard.

Get up to 33% off for Kim’s audience only, with plans starting at less than $7 a month at IdentityGuard.com/Kim.

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