Don't be Fooled this Tax Season


Identity theft is when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission.

This type of theft is a serious crime and, according to the United States Department of Justice, almost 15 million people become a victim of identity theft every year. This break of Internet security affects approximately seven percent of the population and costs its victims on average over 3,000 dollars. Identity thieves – once they have your personal information – can apply for loans and credit cards, make fraudulent withdrawals, and even fraudulently use telephone calling cards.

Some ways that identity thieves steal your information is by “shoulder surfing.”  In a public place (like a coffee shop), they watch you type in your credit card information, address, and phone number. With your credit card and address, identity thieves can then use this information to make false purchases. Identity thieves also may look in your trash for “pre-approved” credit cards that were not shredded, then they open the credit card account without your knowledge.

Phishing emails are a way that identity thieves also gain access to your sensitive information. These emails have attachments that contain malware or have links that request your sensitive information under false pretenses. Many phishers at this time of the year will impersonate the IRS or other governmental agencies and will claim you owe money that is due now. These are different ways that identity thieves can get a hold of your information and use them for personal gain.

Lastly, another way that identity thieves get access to your personal information during tax season is by intercepting W-2 forms sent from your employer in the mail or by taking your tax forms from your mailbox or your preparer’s mailbox.


Knowledge is power; here are some ways to protect yourself from identity theft:
  • Request that your employer sends your W-2 electronically in a secure fashion. If this is not an option, keep your address up-to-date so your W-2 is not sent to the wrong address.
  • Request a “Smart card” or EMV Chip Card from your bank. This EMV allows for dynamic authentication which makes your card more difficult to reproduce.
  • Use strong and unique passwords, and never share them.
  • Password-protect your phone. Also, set your phone to auto-lock and do not auto-save passwords. If your phone is stolen, thieves will not have easy access to all your sensitive data.
  • Use an encrypted Internet connection. The on-campus encrypted network is SecureCanes. Also, use secure Internet commerce websites; they normally contain “https” in the web address.
  • Know how to spot phishing emails.
  • Pick your tax preparer carefully, make sure they are properly storing and/or destroying your information, and are using a certified mail carrier to deliver your tax forms. 
  • If you are filing your own taxes, make sure to keep them in a safe place and that you use a certified mail carrier to deliver your taxes.

Have questions? We're here to help!

If you have questions about cybersecurity, or if you want to learn more about how to stay safe online, contact the Information Security Office (ISO) at: ciso@miami.edu