Smart Money: Tax return identity theft

Smart Money-Identity Theft

See what to do if you believe your tax return has been compromised!

Signs your tax records have been affected:

  • Identity thieves often use stolen Social Security numbers to file fraudulent tax returns to obtain false refunds.
  • Suspect the possibility of identity theft if you receive correspondence from the IRS stating any of the following:
    • More than one tax return was filed using your Social Security number.
    • You owe additional tax.
    • Your refund is being offset or reduced.
    • The IRS is taking collection action against you for a year you did not file a return.
    • IRS records show that you received wages from an unfamiliar employer.

Action steps if your records have been compromised:

  • Immediately respond to any notices you receive from the IRS.
  • Complete the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039, located at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f14039.pdf.
  • If you are a victim of identity theft or simply believe you may be at risk of identity theft, you should call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 so the IRS may take steps to secure your account.
  • Contact local law enforcement.

Preventing identity theft:

  • Be skeptical!
  • Official IRS correspondence will arrive via traditional paper mail. However, be aware that some fraudsters have learned to develop clever forgeries of IRS and state-specific document formats, fonts and logos.
  • The IRS does not contact taxpayers via e-mail, text messages or social media. Forward scam e-mails to phishing@irs.gov.
  • Guard your Social Security number as if it were gold.
  • Never provide personal information via phone, e-mail, mail or the Internet unless you initiated the contact or you are certain regarding the third party with whom you are corresponding. IRS impersonation schemes are most prevalent during tax season. They can take the form of e-mail, phone calls, websites or even social media outlets.
  • Secure electronic and paper forms of financial information.
  • Destroy sensitive information that you discard. Identity thieves may even search through your trash.
  • Utilize anti-spam and anti-virus software. Regularly update security patches.
  • Regularly change Internet passwords.
  • Check your credit reports frequently. A convenient resource is www.annualcreditreport.com.

Resources for identity theft victims:

  • Federal Trade Commission http://www.identitytheft.gov/ and https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/.
  • The FTC published a comprehensive Guide for Assisting Identity Theft Victims
  • You may also file a complaint with the FTC.
  • Social Security Administration: https://www.ssa.gov/.
  • Among other resources, the SSA website provides links for placing fraud alerts on each of your credit files maintained by Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.
  • Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3): http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx.
    • IC3 is a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.
    • You may file a complaint via the IC3 website.

Courtesy: Christopher Harper, Senior Manager | Hungerford Nichols

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