Taxes in the cyber age: How to protect your identity this tax season

New survey from Experian’s ProtectMyID® reveals risks consumers take when filing their taxes and how they can guard against tax-related identity theft

Costa Mesa, Calif, Feb. 3, 2015 — The majority of taxpayers will prioritize protecting their personal information this tax season, yet some safeguards go underused, according to a new survey commissioned by Experian’s ProtectMyID®, a leading full-service provider of identity theft detection, protection and resolution.

“Tax filers are obvious targets for identity thieves since money can be made filing false returns or by stealing the information off of tax documents to commit identity theft,” said Becky Frost, senior manager of consumer education for Experian’s ProtectMyID. “Most taxpayers are now filing electronically, so it’s important to know how to submit and save tax records safely, keeping personal information away from cyber thieves.”

Taxpayers are filing online increasingly and are taking steps to secure the digital information they submit to the IRS. Survey results show that 81 percent of U.S. tax filers plan to submit their taxes online this year, up from 73 percent in 2011. Most individuals who prepared and filed their own taxes online used secure networks and computers with up-to-date antivirus protection (91 percent).

This year, tax filers who have their documents prepared by a tax preparer are slightly more concerned about the security of their personal financial information, up 6 percent from last year. Yet, 16 percent of those polled are unfamiliar with the concept of tax-related identity theft. Additionally, 50 percent are not familiar with the IRS-issued PIN available to eligible tax filers to prevent the misuse of a Social Security number on fraudulent federal income tax returns.

Other key survey findings include:

• Fifty-five percent of those polled are concerned about becoming a victim of tax-related identity theft

• For those who have taxes prepared by a tax preparer, there has been a 6 percent increase in concern that personal data may get lost by their tax preparer (since 2014)

• Of the 46 percent surveyed who said they file their own taxes online, ninety-one percent reported using a personal computer or tablet, up 2 percent since 2014

• Fourteen percent scan and save their tax documents electronically, up 8 percent since 2011 • Thirty-nine percent still store physical copies in an unsecure place

• Of the 10 percent surveyed who said they file their own taxes by mail, 61 percent do not use certified mail

“Fighting identity theft is a top priority for the IRS, and because it's such a frustrating and complex process, we encourage taxpayers to be proactive about safeguarding their personal information,” said Anabel Marquez, media relations specialist with the Internal Revenue Service. "We ask that people refrain from carrying their Social Security cards or any documents that include their Social Security numbers. Don't provide personal information over the phone, through the mail or online unless you've initiated the contact or you are sure you know who you are dealing with. We also recommend people check their credit report regularly, protect their personal computers by using firewalls and anti-spam/virus software, and change passwords for Internet accounts.”

Tax filers should keep the following actions in mind when submitting taxes this year:


• Research any paid preparer or tax-preparation software. While plenty of free help can be found online, scammers also are out there setting up fake websites and software downloads solely designed to bilk people out of their personal information during tax time.

• File online using a computer that is protected with up-to-date antivirus and antimalware software, a firewall and password. • Keep important tax documents in a locked, secure location.

• Ask potential tax preparers to explain how they protect their customers’ information.

• Enroll in identity protection and take action if alerts indicate potentially fraudulent activity.


• Respond to any email, text message or phone call from someone who says they’re with the IRS. The IRS says it never contacts taxpayers through those methods.

• Let letters linger in your mailbox. During January, important tax documents will arrive via the mail. Thieves know this and have been known to pluck data-rich forms from victims’ mailboxes during tax season.

• File taxes over public Wi-Fi networks. Stick with a secure network connection for all online activity.

Find complete survey details, including an infographic, at

About the survey

The online survey was conducted by Edelman Berland on behalf of Experian from Jan. 2, 2015, through Jan. 7, 2015, among 1,000 adults ages 18 and older residing in the United States who file a tax return. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percent. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact

The trending data referenced above is from two previous surveys conducted on behalf of Experian. The 2014 online survey was conducted by Edelman Berland from February 4-10, 2014 among 1,000 adults ages 18 and older residing in the United States who file a tax return. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percent. The 2011 survey was conducted by Impulse Research in March 2011, among 1,030 adults ages 18 and older residing in the United States. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percent.


Ann Noder Pitch

Public Relations

1 480 263 1557

About Experian’s ProtectMyID

ProtectMyID is a leading, full-service provider of identity theft detection, protection and resolution. ProtectMyID offers comprehensive identity theft protection features supported by experienced identity theft resolution professionals who deliver personal attention that customers can rely on.® is a Website owned by®, Inc., an Experian company. For more information about how ProtectMyID helps consumers protect themselves against identity theft, please visit

About Experian

We are the leading global information services company, providing data and analytical tools to our clients around the world. We help businesses to manage credit risk, prevent fraud, target marketing offers and automate decision making. We also help people to check their credit report and credit score, and protect against identity theft. In 2014, we were named by Forbes magazine as one of the “World’s Most Innovative Companies.”

We employ approximately 16,000 people in 39 countries and our corporate headquarters are in Dublin, Ireland, with operational headquarters in Nottingham, UK; California, US; and São Paulo, Brazil.

Experian plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange (EXPN) and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 index. Total revenue for the year ended March 31, 2014, was US$4.8 billion.

To find out more about our company, please visit or watch our documentary, “Inside Experian.”


IRS records show you were previously the victim of identity theft, you were identified by the IRS as a possible victim of identity theft or you participated in the pilot program for residents of Fla., Ga. or DC. This IP PIN is used to authenticate your identity when filing current and delinquent form 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ or 1040 PR/SS tax returns during the current calendar year. Source: