With Tax Day – April 15 – having arrived for 2013, now is a good time to review the top tips every taxpayer should know about identity theft offered by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on the IRS Identity Protection Tips page available at http://www.irs.gov/uac/Identity-Protection-Tips.
According to the IRS: “Identity theft often starts outside of the tax administration system when someone’s personal information is stolen or lost. Identity thieves may then use a taxpayer’s identity to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund. In other cases, the identity thief uses the taxpayer’s personal information in order to get a job. The legitimate taxpayer may be unaware that anything has happened until they file their return later in the filing season and discover two returns have been filed using the same Social Security number.”
Here are the top tips from the IRS to help taxpayers avoid becoming the victim of identity theft:
- The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or social media tools to request personal or financial information and does not send emails stating individuals are being electronically audited or getting a refund. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.
- If taxpayers receive a scam email claiming to be from the IRS, forward it to the IRS at email@example.com.
- Identity thieves access personal information of taxpayers by many different means including stealing a wallet or purse, posing as someone who needs information through a phone call or email, looking through trash for personal information, and accessing information provided to an unsecured Internet site.
- If taxpayers discover a website that claims to be the IRS but does not begin with ‘www.irs.gov’ forward that link to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- To learn how to identify a secure website, taxpayers should visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website at http://www.ftc.gov/.
- If a taxpayer’s Social Security number (SSN) is stolen, another individual may use it to get a job and that person’s employer may report income earned to the IRS using a stolen SSN, thus making it appear the taxpayer did not report all income on his or her tax return. When this occurs, taxpayers should contact the IRS to show the income is not their income.
- A taxpayer’s identity may have been stolen if a letter from the IRS indicates more than one tax return was filed for that taxpayer or the letter states he or she received wages from an unknown employer. Taxpayers who receive such a letter from the IRS should respond immediately to the name, address, or phone number on the IRS notice. If they believe the notice is not from the IRS, they should contact the IRS to determine if the letter is a legitimate notice.
- Taxpayers with tax records are not currently affected by identity theft but who believe they may be at risk due to a lost wallet, questionable credit card activity, or credit report need to provide the IRS with proof of their identity. They should submit a copy of your valid government-issued identification, such as a Social Security card, driver’s license or passport, along with a copy of a police report and/or a completed IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, which should be faxed to the IRS at 1-855-807-5720.
- Taxpayers should show their SSN card to their employers when starting a job or to financial institutions for tax reporting purposes but should not routinely carry SSN cards or other documents that display their SSN. • Taxpayers who want more information about identity theft – including information about how to report identity theft, phishing and related fraudulent activity – should visit the IRS Identity Theft Protection page at http://www.irs.gov/uac/Identity-Protection.
- Taxpayers should be aware IRS impersonation schemes flourish during tax season and can take the form of email, websites, even tweets. Scammers may also use a phone or fax to reach their victims. If Taxpayers receive a paper letter or notice via mail claiming to be the IRS but suspect it may be a scam, check the IRS phishing page at http://www.irs.gov/uac/Report-Phishing.
- While preparing tax returns for electronic filing, taxpayers should make sure to use a strong password to protect the data file. Once your return has been e-filed, save the file to a CD or flash drive and then delete the personal return information from your hard drive. Store the CD or flash drive in a safe place, such as a lock box or safe. If working with an accountant, you should query them on what measures they take to protect your information.
- If taxpayers have information about the identity thief that impacted their personal information negatively, file an online complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at https://www.ic3.gov/.
Identity theft in general – and tax- or wage-related fraud in particular – once again topped the list of complaints received by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for the 13th consecutive year in the annual FTC Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book for January – December 2012. The report found that 369,132 complaints – or 18 percent – related to identity theft, with more than 43 percent of those complaints related to tax- or wage-related fraud. The FTC Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book for 2012 is available at http://www.ftc.gov/sentinel/reports/sentinel-annual-reports/sentinel-cy2012.pdf.
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