This week is Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week and your BBB® brings you news about this important week. Tax identity theft occurs when someone files a phony tax return using your personal information or uses your Social Security number (SSN) to get a job or claims your child on a tax return. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “tax identity theft has been the most common form of identity theft reported to the FTC for the past five years.” Last year the FTC reported they received 109,063 complaints about tax identity theft which is about one-third of all identity theft complaints they received. Here are some of the ways identity thieves can get your personal information:
-going through your trash or stealing your mail
-sending a phony email that looks like it’s from the IRS
-stealing records at a hospital, bank, nursing home, etc.
-phony or dishonest tax preparer stealing your SSN or selling it to identity thieves
Here are some ways consumers protect themselves according to the FTC and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS):
-“file your tax return early before the identity thieves do
-if you e-file, protect your personal computers by using firewalls and anti-spam/virus software, updating security patches and changing passwords for Internet accounts
-shred copies of your tax return, drafts, or calculation sheets you don’t need
-respond to all mail from the IRS as soon as possible
-know that the IRS won’t contact you by email, text, or social media; it will first contact you by mail
-don’t give our your SSN or Medicare number unless necessary and don’t carry them with you. Ask why it’s needed, how it’s going to be used, and how it will be stored
-get recommendations and research a tax preparer thoroughly before you hand over personal information
-if your SSN has been compromised, contact the IRS ID Theft Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490
-check your credit report at least once a year for free at annualcreditreport.com to make sure no other accounts have been opened in your name.”
Be sure and check out a tax preparer with your BBB at bbb.org/evansville before sharing financial and personal information with the business or individual preparer.
In addition to the above scam where tax identity thieves pretend they are you, another tax identity theft scam is the IRS Imposter Scam. According to the FTC, complaints about the IRS Imposter Scam have skyrocketed. In 2013 they received 2,545 IRS Imposter complaints and in 2014 that number rose to 54,690! In this scam, instead of pretending to be you, the thieves pretend to be IRS officials. They call you or email you and tell you that you owe unpaid taxes and tell you to put the money on a prepaid debit card and tell them the number on the card. If it’s an email, they tell you to click on a link in the email and enter the card number. According to the FTC and the IRS, they may threaten you with arrest, deportation, revocation of your license, or shutting down your business if you don’t pay right away. Once you tell them the number on the prepaid card, your money is gone with no way to trace it.
The IRS will never initially contact you by phone or email. If you get an email claiming to be the IRS, do not reply or click on any links. Instead forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact the IRS immediately at 800-908-4490 if you think someone used your SSN for a tax refund. 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.
For more information you can trust, visit bbb.org/evansville.
While the BBB endeavors to provide accurate information to the public, changes in the law, facts or circumstances may have occurred since the foregoing was posted. The BBB recommends doing independent research and consulting professional advisors concerning a particular situation.