Claim your account before anyone else does

No joke. It's pretty easy for a crook to create an account with the IRS in your name and steal everything associated with it

There are lots of things you might rush to claim--a domain name in your name, a trademark, a winning lottery ticket--but an online account with the IRS probably doesn't come to mind first. It should, though. Especially now that it's tax season, drop everything for a bit and take five minutes to set up your account on

Security expert Brian Krebs explains how surprisingly easy it is for identity thieves to create an account in your name if you haven't already done so, and with that account get your personal information, tax transcripts, and other data, such as your W2 information. Armed with that information, they could file a fraudulent return in your name.

Krebs' article notes an example of one person for whom this happened, unfortunately. 

I always owe money each year, so I'd sort of be happy if hackers did my return for me and paid my taxes, but I know that's not going to happen. Still, I registered for my account as soon as I saw the story on Gizmodo because you can never be too careful when it comes to protecting your personal information.

The account also comes in handy when you're applying for a mortgage, health insurance, small business loan, or any other account that will reference prior years' tax returns. You--and hopefully only you--can see your transcripts and tax account information there.

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