by Penny Fox –
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes nationwide, and refund fraud caused by identity theft is one of the biggest challenges facing the IRS. This year, the IRS continues to take strong actions to protect taxpayers and help victims of identity theft and refund fraud.
In a drive to prevent, detect, and resolve identity theft cases as soon as possible, the IRS has more than 3,000 employees working on these cases, and they’ve trained over 35,000 more who work with taxpayers to recognize and assist when identity theft occurs. In one typical ploy, identity thieves file fraudulent refund claims using another person’s stolen ID. Innocent taxpayers are victimized because their refunds are delayed.
Here are some tips to protect yourself from becoming a victim, and steps to take if you think someone may have filed a tax return using your name:
- Don’t carry your Social Security card or any documents that include your Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
- Don’t give a business your SSN or ITIN just because they ask. Give it only when required.
- Protect your financial information.
- Check your credit report every 12 months.
- Secure personal information in your home.
- Protect your personal computers with firewalls and anti-spam/virus software, updating security patches and changing passwords for Internet accounts.
- Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail, or on the Internet unless you initiated the contact or you are sure you know who you’re dealing with.
If your tax records are not currently affected by identity theft, but you believe you may be at risk due to a lost or stolen purse or wallet, questionable credit card activity, or credit report, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490, extension 245 (Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. local time).
Penny M. Fox, CPA specializes in tax and accounting services, including tax planning and tax return preparation, bookkeeping, retirement planning, business consulting, estate planning, trust consulting, divorce planning and bankruptcy planning.