HSB Survey: Online or in the Mail, Tax Filers Worry About Fraud and Identity Theft

Two-Thirds of Taxpayers are Concerned that their Financial Information is at Risk


Man holding 1040 tax form while preparing to do taxes.
© Getty Images

More than two-thirds (67 percent) of U.S. consumers are concerned about tax fraud and identity theft this year, according to a study released today by The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company (HSB), part of Munich Re, a leading insurer of data and information security risk.

They may have reason to worry. Nearly one-quarter of those responding report they have had their identity stolen in the past. And the Internal Revenue Service has issued several alerts about tax scams warning of a 400 percent surge in phishing and malware incidents this tax season.

“Tax fraud is a leading cause of the identity theft insurance claims that we receive,” said Eric Cernak, U.S. cyber and privacy risk practice leader for Munich Re. “As more consumers file their taxes online, they should update security protections on computers, Wi-Fi networks and connected devices.”

The survey showed most taxpayers (37 percent) now file and share their tax information online, or through a mobile app, potentially exposing them to cyber criminals. Other taxpayers (32 percent) deliver tax information in person — the safest method — or share and file their information through the traditional mail (11 percent). The rest were unsure or said they used another method.

Consumer concerns about tax fraud and identity theft increase with age. Baby Boomers (respondents 53-71) worried the most, with 77 percent expressing concerns; followed by Gen Xers (age 37-51) at 67 percent and Millennials (age 18-36) at 55 percent.

When filing their taxes, 15 percent of Baby Boomers file via postal mail, about twice the rate of Millennials (7 percent) and Gen Xers (8 percent).

The risks of identity theft and fraud increase for the millions of Americans who rush to file near the annual deadline in April, said Cernak. But there are actions that consumers can take to protect their information and there is insurance available to help cover identity theft and fraud. 

HSB recommends the following precautions to help prevent tax-related identity theft:

  1. Keep home operating systems current with the latest security patches. While appropriate defense systems vary greatly based on the system, a simple preventative measure includes turning on the automatic update feature in many of your security programs.
  2. Double-check the security of your home computer network. Protect your computer network by using strong passwords (and changing them often, which many don’t do frequently).
  3. File online from your home or a secure network. Don’t file your return electronically from a public Wi-Fi network, where hackers could steal your information.
  4. Closely monitor financial documents. Criminals look for W-2s, tax refunds or other mail containing financial information. If it looks like mail has been previously opened upon delivery, contact the IRS immediately.
  5. Use a secure mailbox. If you’re filing by mail, post your tax return inside a post office facility. If that’s not possible, drop your tax return at an official postal box instead of your mailbox at home. And remember — criminals have been known to steal mail from outdoor boxes.
  6. Do not automatically provide your SSN. Providing a social security number is not required for all documentation. Provide a SSN with caution as this is what criminals are looking for.

Note for the editorial staff

For further questions please contact
Dennis Milewski
Dennis Milewski
Media Relations, HSB


Survey Methodology - Survey was conducted by ORC International’s CARAVAN Omnibus Services and was based on 1,013 landline and cell phone interviews of U.S. adults conducted March 9-12, 2017. The margin of error was +/-3.08%.

Hartford Steam Boiler (HSB), a member of Munich Re’s Risk Solutions family since 2009, is a leading specialty insurer providing equipment breakdown, other specialty coverages, inspection services and engineering-based risk management that set the standard for excellence worldwide. We focus on clients and partner with them to craft inventive insurance and service solutions to cover existing and emerging risks posed by technological change. Today, as throughout our 150 year history, our mission is to use our engineering knowledge and insights to help clients prevent loss, advance sustainable use of energy resources and build deeper relationships that benefit business, industry, public institutions and consumers. HSB holds A.M. Best Company’s highest financial rating, A++ (Superior). For more information, visit www.hsb.com and connect on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

Munich Re stands for exceptional solution-based expertise, consistent risk management, financial stability and client proximity. This is how Munich Re creates value for clients, shareholders and staff. In the financial year 2015, the Group – which combines primary insurance and reinsurance under one roof – achieved a profit of €3.1bn on premium income of over €50bn. It operates in all lines of insurance, with over 43,000 employees throughout the world. With premium income of around €28bn from reinsurance alone, it is one of the world’s leading reinsurers. Especially when clients require solutions for complex risks, Munich Re is a much sought-after risk carrier. Its primary insurance operations are concentrated mainly in the ERGO Insurance Group, one of the leading insurance groups in Germany and Europe. ERGO is represented in over 30 countries worldwide and offers a comprehensive range of insurances, provision products and services. In 2015, ERGO posted premium income of €17.9bn. In international healthcare business, Munich Re pools its insurance and reinsurance operations, as well as related services, under the Munich Health brand. Munich Re’s global investments (excluding insurance-related investments) amounting to €215bn are managed by MEAG, which also makes its competence available to private and institutional investors outside the Group.

Hartford, Connecticut, March 22th, 2017

The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company
One State Street
P.O. Box 5024
Hartford, Connecticut 06102-5024
United States