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Your Taxes
File early to protect yourself

Last year, Colleen and Alan Garrett (not their real names) e-filed their tax return just before the April 15 deadline. Less than 24 hours later, the IRS rejected it. The reason: Colleen's Social Security number had been stolen and used months earlier on another return. The Garretts became part of the thousands others who were affected by tax identity theft in 2014. And the theft affected them more than a delayed refund: the day they received confirmation of the theft, they were scheduled to attend their son's prospective college orientation and were required to bring financial documents, including their completed tax return. Although the IRS acknowledged the theft and the Garretts were refiling, in the eyes of the college, they did not have a completed tax return which resulted in a delay of the financial aid process. Their son ultimately did not attend that college, but the financial aid process was delayed again when he applied at another university.

To prevent the possibility of tax identity theft, consider filing earlier. If you have your documents, such as W-2's, you can begin the process now.

In addition, be on your guard and look out for email phishing schemes. You may get them through email, paper letter, website or phone call, but all are aimed at getting your personal information. This easy-to-read chart from the IRS provides examples and instructions on what to do if you receive any of these schemes.

Consider a security freeze. By placing a freeze on your credit file, you can prevent someone who has fraudulently obtained your personal identifying information, such as your Social Security number, to open new accounts or borrow money. As an identity theft victim, you can obtain the freeze for free.

To do so, you must request the freeze by mail and send a copy of your police report and/or the FTC complaint form to each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Click here for sample letters.

For more information on filing and for ID theft prevention tips, see below:

Return preparation and filing options

Identity theft protection tips & victim assistance