That number is expected to grow this year as the IRS pushes e-filing as an "easier and faster process," meaning billions of refund dollars are at risk.
According to the Wall Street Journal, tax-identity theft exploded to more than 1.1 million cases in 2011, with an additional 1.5 million potentially fraudulent 2011 tax refunds discovered by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration last summer. To prevent this from happening on 2012 tax returns, ThreatMetrix has identified five precautions taxpayers can take to safeguard their accounts and information while e-filing:
1. Make security part of the decision process. Choose a tax preparation service or website that provides bank level security, such as two-factor authentication and anti-malware protection.
2. Keep your eye on the address bar. Make sure any Web form you submit is HTTP Secure. An easy indicator is the "s" found after "http" in a Web address or the padlock icon typically found to the left of the Web address. In addition, make sure the address of each page is a valid IRS or tax preparation website.
3. Watch for suspicious emails and pop-ups. If a cybercriminal suspects you are filing taxes online, they may send you a "phishing" email asking for additional personal information. Although these may look like authentic requests, do not respond. No legitimate bank or tax preparation service would ask a user to enter sensitive information into a pop-up screen or into a link provided via email.
4. Safeguard your password. If you set up a username and password on an e-filing website, make sure your password is unique from that of any other personal accounts – especially social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. If your password is the same across multiple profiles and one gets compromised, all your accounts will be at risk.
5. Update your devices. Even if you know the tax fraud facts and are cautious while e-filing, malware might still be on your computer to intercept data from legitimate websites. Update the anti-virus and malware detection software on any device on which you will enter tax information before you get started.