It’s that time of year — you may have already filed your taxes or are about to do so.  There are already news stories about thieves stealing personal information to file fraudulent tax returns using stolen SSNs and other information.

So other than worrying, is there anything you can do?  Yes, first, remember the basic first step of “confirm and verify”.  If you get an email that looks as if it’s from the IRS make sure to see if there’s the “.gov” at the end of the site.  Thieves can’t send using the “.gov.” Also, do the same if someone calls claiming to be from the IRS and asking for your personal information.  The IRS website is: http://www.irs.gov and there are “800” numbers listed there to call.

Second, the IRS has instituted measures to assist taxpayers.  I’ll summarize 2 of them:

     1. The Identity Protection Specialized Unit: This unit can help you if you have been, or think you might become, the victim of identity theft.  The latter because someone’s stolen your wallet or purse; the former because you get a letter from the IRS or a tax processor saying, for example, that you’ve filed more than 1 tax return or that someone has already filed a return using your information.  Call the “1-800-908-4490″number to speak with a representative for assistance and to get a “filter” put on your tax returns.

     2. Tax Return Filters: What are these?  The IRS has created these “filters”, or “red flags” to put on tax returns when someone reports being a victim, or potential victim, of identity theft.  There are also filters to detect fraud.  Once your tax account and return are flagged, the IRS will correspond with you before processing further your account so they can make sure they’ve got the right taxpayer.

More details abut the pro-active steps you can take to protect your privacy and information can be found at the IRS homepage.  Go to the heading “Gaither & Protect” and hit the “Identity Theft” topic.

And these are helpful steps to remember even after tax filing season is over — because, as we unfortunately know, thieves work year round stealing our valuable personal information.