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Who Filed My Taxes?

 

Who Filed My Taxes?

 

          It's not just credit and debit cards that cyber hackers are after these days. Criminals are also using stolen personal information to file fraudulent tax returns and receive tax refunds.

          Tax fraud has increased substantially in recent years, according to Federal Trade Commission identity theft data. In 2014, tax or wage-related fraud was the No. 1 consumer complaint in how an identity theft victim's information was misused.

          Cyber thieves rely on all sorts of tactics to gain access to your personal information. A criminal just needs your name, Social Security number and date of birth to file a tax return, and falsified W-2 information to attempt to claim a refund.

One tactic is calling taxpayers, claiming to be from the IRS and trying to get personal information over the phone or trying to scare the taxpayer into making a payment for taxes they don't owe.

          The first clue you will have if you are a victim comes when you file your tax return. If you e-file and your identity has been stolen, your return will be rejected by the IRS. If you originally mailed your tax return, you will receive a notice in the mail from the IRS stating that someone has already filed using your Social Security number. 

           If this happens to you, act fast.  Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 and report the theft. The next step is to fill out Form 14039, the Identity Theft Affidavit, available at IRS.gov. If you tried to e-file your return and it was rejected, you will have to mail in your tax return to the IRS.

          You should also contact the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax to ensure your personal information is not being used in other ways that you have not authorized.

          And it turns out that it may not matter which way you file, whether electronically or the old-fashioned way through mail. Either method can be compromised.

          If you are e-filing, make sure your computer has the most up-to-date anti-virus software, and that you are filing from a secure connection, not a public Wi-Fi connection.  If you are mailing your tax return, post your tax return at the post office – not your home mailbox where thieves can grab items.

          The IRS initiates contact with taxpayers with a letter, not a phone call or email (which could be a sign of a scam). You could be a victim of tax fraud if you receive a letter regarding a refund or tax owed for a year that you didn’t file a return or a letter stating the your return is under review. A notice from the IRS stating that its records indicate you received more wages than you actually earned or your state or federal benefits were reduced or cancelled because the agency received information reporting an income change also could indicate that you’re a victim of fraud. And, of course, a letter stating that more than one tax return was filed in your name is a red flag.

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