January 30 – February 3, 2017 is Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week. Your BBB® would like to share information about this week. The purpose is to make people aware of tax identity theft and how to recognize and prevent it. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC),” tax identity theft is when a scammer files a fraudulent tax return using someone else’s Social Security number (SSN) and steals the victim’s refund. Employment-related tax identity theft occurs when someone uses another person’s SSN to earn wages that are then reported as the victim’s income.”
Tax identity theft has been the most common form of identity theft reported to the FTC for the past five years. Some of the ways tax identity thieves get your information are:
- going through your trash or stealing mail from your home or car
- sending phony emails that look like they’re from the IRS and asking for personal information
- employees at hospitals, nursing homes, banks, and other businesses stealing your information
- phony or dishonest tax preparers misusing their clients’ information or passing it along to identity thieves
How do you know if you’re a victim? You may get a letter from the IRS saying that more than one tax return was filed in your name, or you get a letter from the IRS telling you that their records show they received wages from an employer they don’t know. Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490.
How can you prevent your information from being stolen? Here are some tips from FTC, IRS, and BBB:
- File your tax return early in the tax season to prevent thieves from doing it.
- Use a secure internet connection if you file electronically. Avoid using unsecured publicly available Wi-Fi hotspots at places like coffee shops or a hotel lobby.
- Mail your tax return directly from the post office; don’t just leave it in the mailbox.
- Shred copies of your tax return, drafts, or calculation sheets you no longer need.
- Answer all mail from the IRS as soon as possible.
- Don’t respond if you get an email, text, or social media message from the IRS. The IRS won’t contact you by those means; instead, the IRS will first contact you by mail.
- Don’t routinely carry your Social Security card or any document with your SSN on it. Do not give out your Social Security number (SSN) or Medicare number unless necessary. Ask why it’s needed, how it’s going to be used, and how it will be stored.
- Check out a tax preparer with bbb.org/evansville before you hand him or her your personal information.
- Check your credit report at least once a year for free at com to make sure no other accounts have been opened in your name.
We hope these tips will help you avoid tax identity theft, but if you have already been a victim go to IdentityTheft.gov. There you will find resources to help you report and recover from identity theft. You can report identity theft, get step-by-step advice, sample letters, and your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit. These resources will help you fix problems caused by the theft. In addition, contact the IRS immediately at 800-908-4490. File a police report or an IRS ID Theft Affidavit Form 14039 [PDF]. Keep a record of dates you made calls or sent letters and keep copies of all paperwork and emails. Also, put a fraud alert on your credit report.