Today is a good day for our favorite dog. Maximus has worked all year round at the police station chasing down bad guys like they were mailmen with treats.

Earlier this month, he filed his tax return with the Internal Ruffenue Service and is expecting to get his return today. His return should be sizeable and he is looking forward to using some of it to take out his wife Ginger, the prettiest Dalmatian this side of the Mississippi.  When Max gets home though, there isn’t a check from the Internal Ruffenue Service, but a letter stating that someone else filed taxes using his personal information! Turns out Billy the Chihuahua used Max’s information to file false W-2s and received a refund for a job neither of them ever had. Now Max is a victim of tax identity theft and has to deal with the headache of straightening the situation out.

Even though our furry friends don’t have Social Security numbers, there are quite a few people who could sympathize with Maximus.  Tax identity theft is a huge problem.  The Internal Revenue Service is working hard to fight back against the crime, but the sheer volume of the task is making it very difficult.  That being said, you can protect yourself with these helpful tips:

  • File Early: Filing your taxes as early as possible is actually a very good way to protect yourself from having your personal information used for tax identity theft. Basically the thieves can’t file if you file first. So, ask your employer to get your tax documents to you as early as possible and file right away.
  • Check out Your Tax Preparer: During tax time you may want someone else to prepare your taxes for you. Make sure that person is qualified to do so and that they have a history in the field. Anyone who prepares taxes should have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), so ask the preparer to make sure they do.  A tax preparer has access to all of your personal information so make sure it isn’t just anyone that you choose for this important task.
  • Practice Cybersecurity: These days, many of us file our taxes online. Not only do you want to make sure the program you are using is reputable, make sure you are holding up your end. You should make sure that you have anti-virus installed on your computer and that it is up to date.  Other safety measures include not using public WiFi and not sending sensitive personal information over email.

If you do think you may be a victim of tax identity theft or want to know more about how you can protect yourself in the future, you can access the help of the Identity Theft Resource Center through our new mobile app.  Download the ITRC’s free ID Theft Help mobile app available on the iTunes Store for Apple devices here or Google Play for Android devices here to get helpful information on further protecting yourself.  You can even talk directly with a trained victim advisor free of charge right from the app through the LiveChat feature. These days,  you cannot guarantee that you will never have your personal information exposed, but you can make sure that should it happen you have your identity theft help backup right there on your smartphone with the free ID Theft Help Mobile App from the ITRC.

This product was produced by Identity Theft Resource Center and supported by grant number 2014-XV-BX-K003, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.