As sealed W-2s arrive, Better Business Bureau warns that sensitive informationâ - such as Social Security numbers, incomes and addresses, as well as employer identification numbers - could be at risk if forms fall into the wrong hands.
Employers file Form W-2s - or Wage and Tax Statements - to report employees' wages and withheld income taxes to the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration and their employees. Before April's tax filing deadline, consumers should be wary of:
- Verification Requests: IRS and SSA impersonators send fake emails, letters and make phone calls to "verify" W-2 details. Some solicitations ask consumers to send forms by mail or upload W-2s on websites in order to capture personal identifiers.
- Special Offers: Tax return preparers advertise sales, discounts and incentives for those who agree to bring in W-2s, but problems arise when those preparers are unqualified or untrustworthy. Untrained staff could botch filings; or worse, corrupt employees may be collecting details to commit identity fraud.
- Thefts: Intruders know when W-2s are ripe to arrive in mailboxes. They also know that some consumers carelessly store forms in unsecured locations.
BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington returns to tax safeguards:
Beware of phishing. If requests are unsolicited, do not release personal data. The IRS and SSA do not use email or social media sites to initiate W-2 collections. W-2 forms are submitted by employers, not taxpayers, and the IRS sends letters, not emails, when it needs more details. Report tax phishing scams to the IRS.
Don't be persuaded by gifts and gimmicks. Be wary of big refund promises, Refund Anticipation Loans and tax preparation schemes. Before redeeming offers, read confidentiality agreements, privacy policies and other fine print.
Verify credentials. Confirm reliability with IRS tips and check out "Tax Return Preparation" companies at bbb.org.
Store W-2s in safe locations. Avoid leaving important paperwork and W-2s in unsecured places such as work offices, common living areas, vehicles and unlocked mailboxes; quickly relocate files to locked safes or secure file cabinets. If records are stored online, always password-protect computers and activate anti-virus software.
Clear out old files.
After tax season, shred unneeded documents at BBB's Secure Your ID Day on April 21, 2012: akorww.bbb.org/secure-your-id.