Guard Against Tax Return
And Other Forms of Identity Theft
ROSELAND, N.J. – Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes nationwide, and tax refund fraud caused by identity theft is a major challenge facing taxpayers. According to a Government Accountability Office report, fraudulent tax refunds were estimated at $5.2 billion for the 2013 tax filing season.
What Is Tax Return ID Theft?
“Identity thieves often use a legitimate taxpayer’s identity to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund. However, many individuals who are identity theft victims are unaware that their identities have been stolen to file fraudulent tax returns,” says Margaret Van Brunt, CPA, Assistant Dean, Rohrer College of Business, Rowan University. “It’s not until legitimate taxpayers file returns resulting in duplicate filings under the same names and Social Security numbers that they realize they are victims of identity theft.”
Be alert to possible tax-related identity theft if you receive an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) notice or letter that states any of the following:
- More than one tax return for you was filed.
- You have a balance due, refund offset, or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.
- IRS records indicate wages received from an unknown employer.
The IRS recommends you take the following steps to protect your tax and financial information:
- Don’t carry your Social Security card or any documents that include your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.
- Don’t give personal information over the phone, via the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or know exactly who you are dealing with.
- Check your credit report every 12 months.
- Secure personal and financial information.
- Use firewalls and anti-spam/virus software, update security patches and periodically change passwords for Internet accounts on your personal computer.
If you become a victim of identity theft, the IRS recommends you take the following steps right away:
- Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490 x245 so that steps can be taken to secure your tax account.
- Report ID theft incidents to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at consumer.ftc.gov or the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at 877-438-4338.
- File a report with the local police.
- Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, equifax.com, 800-525-6285; Experian, experian.com, 888-397-3742; and TransUnion, transunion.com, 800-680-7289.
- Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
“Remember, the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels,” cautions Van Brunt.
The New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants, with more than 15,000 members, represents the interests of the accounting profession and advances the financial well-being of the people of New Jersey. The NJSCPA plays a leadership role in supporting the profession by providing members with educational resources, access to shared knowledge and a continuing effort to create and expand professional opportunities.