Experts warn to file your taxes fast - before the bad guys do - as you

- The Equifax data breach hit millions of people back in October and the threat of having your identity and money stolen is still very real.

Experts warn everyone needs to act fast as tax season is kicking off.

"You have to assume you've been breached," said David Derigiotis. "There have been so many compromises, before, during and after Equifax."

As soon as you get your W-2's in the mail, cyber security experts like David Derigiotis with Burns and Wilcox says file your taxes - don't wait. 

In October, Equifax admitted that 143 million Americans data had been breached. And much of that information can be used by the bad guys to file a false tax return.

"We have to assume that with Equifax and with many other organizations, our information is out there," he said.

Yes, other organizations outside of Equifax may have put your information at risk as well.  

"There have been a number of companies that most of us haven't even heard of," he said. "Data repositories, they do data analytics, there have been a couple of different instances where large companies have put information on unsecure web servers so that anyone with an internet connection could have accessed them."

Cyber security researchers were able to catch a lot of this before it was too late but there's no saying who got the information before the breach was found. The criminals have been working overtime to profit off your identity.  

"They've put together incredible profiles, an incredible data base on all of us," Derigiotis said. "That information is out there.  It's on the dark web. People are storing it, they sell it, they profit from it.  If we don't file before someone else does in our name, we are going to be at risk."

That advice is being followed at Liberty Tax service in Ferndale, partially because of the data breach and the crooks trying to file before you, but also because of the government shutdown which caused a delay.

"The IRS only had 43 percent of their employees working, so they're a little behind right now," said Robert Arndt, Liberty Tax Service. "They're going to catch up but it’s really important to get it in as quickly as possible so somebody can't utilize it."

"The only way we'll be able to lessen your risk is to file before a criminal does in our name," Derigiotis said. "I usually procrastinate. I can assure you I won't be doing that this year or any other year moving forward."

Equifax is offering free coverage for anybody who has been hacked. The deadline for applying for that help is January 31. 

To see of you have been breached, go to https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/
 

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