Action Line: Tax identity theft protection takes effort
BY PHIL MULKINS World Action Line Editor
Friday, February 22, 2013
2/22/13 at 5:34 AM
Dear Action Line: What is "tax identity theft" and how can the IRS let it happen? - B.S., Broken Arrow.
"Protecting taxpayers and their tax refunds from identity theft is a top priority for the Internal Revenue Service," says the agency's website. "This year the IRS expanded its efforts to better protect taxpayers and help victims dealing with this difficult issue."
Identity thieves use your personal information to file tax returns to claim tax refunds. When you file your own tax return, the IRS will not accept it and notifies you a return has already been filed in your name and using your Social Security number. You might also receive a contact from the IRS about a problem with your tax return and these are the first times you become aware you are an ID theft victim.
ID theft indicators: You filed more than one tax return or someone has already filed using your information. You owe taxes for a year when you were not legally required to file and did not file. You were paid wages by an employer you never worked for. Respond quickly using the contact information in the IRS letter you received so the agency can begin correcting and securing your tax account.
File complaint: If you have information about the identity thief who used or tried to use your information, file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center tulsaworld.com/ic3 For more information - including how to report identity theft, phishing and related fraudulent activity - visit the Identity Protection home page at tulsaworld.com/IRSIDProtect
ID Theft Campaign: The IRS takes identity theft-related tax fraud seriously and realizes that identity theft is a frustrating process for victims. By late 2012, the IRS assigned 3,000 employees - more than double the 2011 force - to work on ID-theft-related issues. The agency continues to enhance its screening process to stop fraudulent returns. During 2012, the IRS protected $20 billion of fraudulent refunds, including those related to ID theft, compared to $14 billion in 2011.
A recently announced, yearlong, nationwide hunt for tax refund fraudsters and ID thieves resulted in 100 arrests in 32 states and Puerto Rico. Last month, the IRS targeted 389 ID theft suspects resulting in 734 enforcement actions. See "IRS intensifies national crackdown on identity theft" at tulsaworld.com/IRSIDTheftCrackdown
Guard personal information: ID thieves can get your personal information many ways, includimg stealing your wallet or purse, posing as someone who needs information about you, looking through your trash or stealing information you provide to an unsecured website or in an unencrypted email. Watch out for IRS impersonators. Be aware the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or social media channels to request personal or financial information or notify people of audits, refunds or investigations.
Scammers also use phone calls, faxes, websites or even in-person contacts. If you're suspicious it's not really the IRS contacting you, don't respond. Protect information on your computer. While preparing your tax return, protect it with a strong password. Once you e-file the return, take it off your hard drive and store it on a CD or flash drive in a safe place, like a lock box or safe. If you use a tax preparer, ask how he will protect your information.
Original Print Headline: Protect yourself from tax identity thieves
Submit Action Line questions by calling 918-699-8888, emailing phil.mulkins@TulsaWorld.com or by mailing them to Tulsa World Action Line, PO Box 1770, Tulsa OK 74102-1770.