Planting Flags: Claim Your Government Accounts Before Someone Else Does
Plant Your Flags Before The Hackers Do!

Did you know that you can file your taxes online? Probably.

Did you know you you can get your tax refund from the IRS via Direct Deposit? Probably.

Did you know that hackers are filing your taxes on your behalf and stealing your refund? Probably not.

Hackers know that people put off filing taxes until the last moment. They take advantage of this by filing fraudulent tax returns early in the year and putting in their own bank account info, stealing any refund that might be due to you. Yes, they need your social security number to do that, but those aren’t very difficult to come by. According to security researcher Brian Krebs, “there are multiple shops in the cybercrime underground that sell SSN and DOB data on tens of millions of Americans for a few dollars per record.” Sure, you can file a claim with the IRS and try to prove that it wasn’t you and they have to pay another refund for the same tax return. Good luck dancing with that bureaucracy!

What’s the better option? Plan your flags! Claim the digital territory that is actually yours. The government has several accounts for you on the books that are just waiting to be claimed online. Make sure you claim them yourself before a hacker does.

Here are the primary accounts we recommend you claiming for yourself:

  • IRS – No surprise here, but the IRS website is exceedingly difficult to navigate and get clear answers from. Here’s the best we have so far: Create an account. Check your info. File online. Create a PIN (great for protecting your account). Receive COVID-19 Stimulus Payments.
  • Social Security Administration – Make sure your retired loved ones sign up for this as well. This allows you (or crooks who get in there first) to receive your Social Security benefits via direct deposit.
  • US Post Office – The USPS has a service where they scan all of your envelopes and email them to you. If a criminal registers in your place, they can see what mail you’re getting and come grab checks and credit cards out of your mailbox while you’re at work.

Also, while we’re talking about protecting your financial world and identity, you may want to check your credit report. You can do it for free at least once per year (twice in CO), and it’s all online. Finally, the best thing you can to do prevent identity thieves from opening credit cards and mortgages in your name is to freeze your credit with the credit bureaus. It’s free or cheap. It’s reversible. And unless you’re signing up for credit cards on a whim while walking around the mall (but don’t do that), it has very little impact on your daily life. Just make sure you save the unlock PIN’s somewhere safe and redundant.

  • Annual Credit Report – Check your credit report for all 3 major credit bureaus.
  • Credit freeze sitesEquifax, Experian, Innovis, TransUnion. Also, don’t forget NCTUE, the little-known credit bureau often used for credit checks on mobile phone accounts.
  • OptOutPrescreen – Opt out of pre-approved credit offers so scammers don’t grab them out of your mailbox and open cards in your name.