How to make it harder for a scammer to file your taxes for you

Tax fraud is one of big payoffs from data breaches. But there’s a simple thing you can do to make it harder for a scammer to file your taxes if your employer or health insurance provider gets breached and your social security number is one of the ones that gets stolen.

Change your social networking profile.

Facebook and Linkedin both allow you to say who your current employer is. Don’t fill that in–write “Company confidential” instead.

On Linkedin, just edit your profile, and next to your employer’s name, click the pencil. Change the name there. Be sure to change it in your description as well, if you’ve put it there.

On Facebook, click Edit Profile, delete your current position, then add it back, saying “Company confidential” instead of the name of the company.

A scammer has to find our your employer’s EIN to file a fake return on your behalf, but EINs are a matter of public record so anyone with moderate search engine skills can find that information. If they don’t know exactly who you work for, they’re probably going to file taxes using someone else’s information instead, rather than going to the effort and then getting nothing because the EIN on the fake return doesn’t match the EIN on the real 1099 that your employer sent to the IRS and your state’s department of revenue.

Not disclosing your employer in your profile makes it harder to find current coworkers on social networks and for them to find you, but if you ask one of my train buddies who found out the hard way that someone did his taxes for him this year and took the money, that’s a much bigger and costlier annoyance.

When you change jobs, you’ll probably want to go back after a year or so, once you’ve filed your taxes for that year, and fill the right company in. That way recruiters can see you really have worked for companies that they’ve heard of, and your now-former coworkers will be able to find you. In the meantime, if you’re employed but looking, if your recruiter wants to know who you’re working for, you can tell them.

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