It's almost tax season! A time many when people await the arrival of their refund checks, but experts warn it's also a time when identity thieves are on the prowl.
"Often times, people don't even know they've been the victim of identity fraud until they filed their own tax return and it's been denied," said Tom Stockett, an investment advisor and CEO and founder of Cleveland Wealth.
"Last year, the IRS reported paying out $5 billion to identity thieves posing as tax payers," said Stockett. "The way that these thieves operate is by using victims' names and social security numbers to file tax returns."
Stockett says there are simple steps you can take to protect yourself.
"One: file early. Two: file electronically. And three: protect your information at all times," he explained.
If you plan to file electronically, it's best to use a secure private connection, and not one in a public place. Stockett also suggests going inside of a post office instead of using a mailbox, because people have had their information stolen this way.
"Note that the IRS won't contact you by e-mail, text, or social media," said Stockett.
Taking precaution will save you time and money, because if you are a victim of identity theft, it can take up to several months for the IRS to return the funds.