March 25, 2024

The IRS identified $2.3 billion in tax fraud last year, and experts worry that the toll may be even higher this year as many Americans plan to file electronically for the first time. 

About 63% of Americans plan to do their taxes online this year, according to McAfee’s 2021 Consumer Security Mindset Report. Of those, about 12% will be filing their taxes online for the first time. 

Scammers are waiting to take advantage, says Terry Hicks, executive vice president of McAfee’s consumer business. “They roll with the times: Right now, a common target is stimulus checks from the federal government,” he says.

“As we embrace the convenience of living our lives online, it makes sense to take a few steps to protect ourselves,” Hicks says. “It’s better to prevent a problem than to be in the position of fixing one.”

Here are five ways you can help protect yourself from falling victim to a tax scam this year. 

1. File early

If you haven’t filed your tax returns already, prioritize getting them in as soon as possible. Every year, the IRS identifies many, many cases of identity theft where fraudsters use stolen personal information, including Social Security numbers, to file a tax return early in the season so they can claim a refund.

Hicks calls this “preventative care.” The earlier you file, the less of a chance hackers have to file pretending to be you, he says. 

If the IRS flags your tax return as a duplicate or you can’t e-file because the system says you already filed, you will likely…

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