As you prepare to file taxes, you'll want to keep in mind that The Federal Trade Commission named this week Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week.
They say that the use of a social security number or other personal information to file a false return is one of the fastest growing forms of identity theft.
"In the past couple of years it's really been on the rise and sometimes people don't even realize that their identity has been stolen until they do their taxes," says Liberty Tax Service Franchisee Owner Tami Vigen.
Then you realize that someone has already filed using your personal information.
"If it comes back, you will get notification, as well as we will, saying that the social security has already been used," she says.
So keep all personal documents including past returns and social security cards in a safe place.
"Make sure their information is protected, secure and is only visible to and accessible to the people who need to see it," says H&R Block Senior Tax Preparer and Franchisee Joyce Meyer.
To protect yourself this tax season, it's important to know the ways that the IRS will and will not contact you if they have any concerns. It's not going to be through text, it's not going to be through email and it's not going to be through phone, either.
"The IRS will only contact you by mail if there's anything they have a concern with regarding your personal or business tax return." says Meyer.
If you are a victim of tax identity theft, there are a few options. The first is to fill out an identity theft affidavit from the IRS website to alert them to the theft. The second is go to the IRS directly with forms of identification.
"Birth certificate, social security card, picture ID, anything that proves you are who you are," says Vigen.
From there you'll be assigned a PIN to use so you can file normally until it's all straightened out. Of course, the best option is prevention.
Experts say it's a good idea to check your credit report at least once a year- that can tip you off to any accounts opened in your name and anyone who might have your personal information.
The Federal Trade Commission offers a lot of great tips on how to protect yourself. You can read them by clicking here