According to the alert, identity thieves commonly send phishing emails that appear to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or the Franchise Tax Board (FTB), asking for personal information or including links to official-looking web sites.
When consumers enter information into these bogus web sites, the thieves can then use the information to file returns in someone else’s name, and falsely obtain a refund.
Harris’ alert included this safety tips:
- Beware of unsolicited phone calls, emails or texts from anyone claiming to be from the IRS or the California Franchise Tax Board. If in doubt, contact the agency using the contact information in the Resources section below.
- Never open an email or a text message that says it is from the IRS or the Franchise Tax Board; they are always fraudulent. State and federal tax agencies never initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text message or social media to request personal or financial information or to send notice regarding audits or refunds.
- If you think you have a tax identity theft problem or receive a letter from the IRS or the FTB stating that someone has already filed using your information, contact the agency. See the contact information in the Resources section below.
- When preparing your tax return for electronic filing, be sure to use a unique strong password on your online filing accounts. A strong password is eight or more characters, including letters, numbers and symbols. Use a unique password for each of your tax filing accounts.
- Think beyond the password. For greater security, you can get an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) for your e-filing account with the IRS. A new PIN is provided each year by the IRS. See the Resources section for more information.
- Check on the availability of two-step authentication to protect your tax filing accounts (and other online accounts containing sensitive information, such as your email and social media accounts). Two-step authentication offers stronger protection than just a password and username. The process (also called login approval or multi-factor authentication) adds a second factor, such as a one-time use code that is sent to you by email, phone or text. You enter that code, along with your username and password, to get access to your account.
Separately, the IRS provides a free tax filing service, FreeFile, that provides either free software or free fillable forms, depending on income level. to use.