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How to Keep Hackers From Stealing Your Tax Refund

February 16, 2016, 6:49 PM UTC
Images Of 1040 Forms As IRS Begins To Accept Tax Returns
U.S. Department of the Treasury Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 1040 Individual Income Tax forms for the 2015 tax year are arranged for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. The IRS began accepting 2015 individual income tax returns today and taxpayers have until Monday, April 18 to file their 2015 tax returns and pay any tax. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg Bloomberg via Getty Images

The simple answer: File as early as possible.

One of the most common ways that identity thieves attempt to steal people’s tax refunds is by using pilfered social security numbers to file fraudulent returns. Criminals obtain this personal information by hacking other websites for data, or purchasing the numbers on black markets online.

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To stop thieves from succeeding, simply file first. Don’t give the fraudsters an opportunity to beat you to the punch; the earlier you file, the less of a chance you have of becoming the next victim.

So get cracking and fill out those W-2 forms, compadres.

Last year hackers stole $50 million from the United States Internal Revenue Service through fraudulent tax refunds. The scams affected 330,000 people.

For more on tax refund fraud, watch:

Earlier this month the agency said it stopped another digital attack targeting its website’s electronic filing system. The automated assault involved 464,000 unique social security numbers, by the IRS’s count, and the attackers apparently succeeded in accessing e-filing PINs for 101,000 of those accounts.

The scams aren’t likely to cease anytime soon. So your best bet is to be proactive: Tax season begins in early January and extends to mid-April.

Don’t wait until the end of the period to secure your return.