Tax season may be over, but that doesn’t mean your clients shouldn’t still be worried about their returns: the IRS is warning consumers that they may be most vulnerable to identity theft now, particularly through e-mail.

On the IRS’s Web site visitors are warned about “phishing”–an identity theft scam in which Internet fraudsters send e-mails to unsuspecting victims luring them into revealing personal and financial information.

Most recently, phony e-mails containing the IRS’s logo have attempted to lure victims into the scam by telling them they are due a tax refund.

This year, the IRS has received a number of complaints related to these e-mails. The IRS is reminding taxpayers that as a rule it does not send out unsolicited e-mails and never asks for PIN numbers, passwords, or information relating to credit cards, cell phones, or financial accounts.

A recent study by the Justice Department found that 3.6 million households reported being victims of identity theft, usually younger heads of household, or people with incomes greater than $75,000.

It is important that you remind your clients about identity theft and how to stay protected. Ask your clients if they have acted on any e-mails they’ve received from the IRS (and for more on what advisors can do to prevent identity theft, see this month’s Soapbox on page 128).–Ryan G. Murphy

Remind your clients that they should:

  • protect their wallets, checkbooks, and credit cards at all times. The largest amount of identity theft derives from these sources.
  • avoid carrying their Social Security cards in their wallets. Losing it or having it stolen could mean a huge headache if accounts are unknowingly opened in your client’s name.
  • resist giving a business or employer their Social Security number just because they ask for it. Tell your clients to ask why before giving it out, particularly if other forms of identification, like a driver’s license number, can be used.
  • immediately close any accounts they feel may have been tampered with.