If you’re still waiting for your tax refund to arrive—and it’s been several weeks since you filed your 2020 return—the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) feels your pain. But it’s warning taxpayers this week not to exacerbate the situation by posting information online that could compromise their privacy.
Here’s the common scenario that can get you in trouble: You file your taxes, you wait the appropriate 21 days for your refund, you hear nothing from the Internal Revenue Service, you unsuccessfully attempt to contact the IRS by phone, and then, out of sheer frustration, you start tweeting screenshots of your bank account number or other compromising information at the @IRSNews Twitter account.
It may sound reckless, but this is actually a thing people do. Search the IRS’s mentions if you want to see for yourself.
Now, in a new blog post this week, the TAS is urging people not to do that. “Social media timelines, forums, and community groups may be a great way to connect with others and even comment publicly about something, but it’s not a great place to share your personal tax information,” said the office, which is part of the IRS but run independently.
By way of example, the TAS listed a number of things you should never post online, including:
- IRS account transcripts
- IRS Where’s My Refund status images
- Refund amounts
- Bank account or routing numbers
- Pictures or snapshots of tax returns
- Any documents with tax or personal information
In fact, the TAS says it doesn’t have the authority to open cases or even respond directly to posts on social media, so blasting out your personal info on Twitter is not only dangerous, it’s a waste of energy. Note that identity thieves are very adept at culling information from multiple sources to gather the data they need to rip consumers off. Sometimes, all it takes is one last piece of the data puzzle. The next thing you know, someone is opening credit cards in your name from their parents’ basement.
Tax identity theft was already a growing problem before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the massive stimulus packages that were authorized over the past year have invited even more fraud. Scammers are looking to get their hands on some of those billions of dollars that were earmarked for federal aid.
The TAS has listed a number of legitimate places to get tax help, including information about refunds and assistance with suspected ID theft. Instead of tweeting your information at strangers, check out the full list here.