Identity Theft Extra Heinous During Yearly Tax Filing Time
Tuesday, February 25, 2014 1:46:51 PM
This article was originally published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on February 25th, 2014
Many folks can't wait for tax season to kick off at the end of January so they can file their tax returns and get their refunds. But there's another group of people who are anxious to get started on your taxes, too: scammers.
The Internal Revenue Service incorrectly issued a massive $4 billion in fraudulent tax refunds in 2012, according to a report released by the Treasury Inspector's Office in 2013. The money was largely sent to people who stole Social Security numbers and other personal information about U.S. citizens and then filed fraudulent tax returns in their names, claiming huge refunds.
Tax identity theft is the single most common form of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission. This year, the IRS says, its has made tax identity theft a top priority and hired new personnel and explored new technologies in an effort to fight it.
In the meantime here's what you can do to reduce the chance that you'll be a victim:
- File your taxes early in the season, if possible.
- Use a secure Internet connection if you file electronically, or mail your return via the post office.
- Don't leave electronic copies of your tax return sitting on your computer. Copy them off to a thumb drive or something similar and file them away with your hard copies.
- Shred any copies of your tax returns or calculation sheets, instead of simply throwing them away.
- Respond to all mail from the IRS promptly.
- Understand that the IRS will not contact you via email, text or social media. It communicates only via postal mail. If you get an email from someone claiming to be from the IRS, you should report it immediately to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Check your credit reports frequently to make sure new accounts have not been opened in your name.
Tax identity theft victims typically find out about the crime when they get a letter from the IRS, alerting them to a duplicate return or IRS records show they received wage statements from an employer they don't know. If you get such a letter, you can contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490.
For more information about tax identity theft, visit the FTC's dedicated page at www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0008-tax-related-identity-theft.
Hawaiian Telcom Information Security Director Beau Monday is a local cybersecurity expert. Reach him at Beau.Monday@hawaiiantel.com