Tax identity theft topped the 2013 Dirty Dozen List compiled by the IRS. Tax identity theft is a fast-growing crime that costs billions of dollars a year and shows no signs of slowing down.
Crooks look for discarded tax returns, bank records, credit card receipts, Medicare cards and more, often relying on email or telephone phishing, dumpster diving, or stealing from your mailbox. They use that info to file for a tax refund before you do. When you file your return later, IRS records will show the first filing and refund, and you’ll get a notice or letter from the IRS.
Here are a few tips to protect yourself:
Reduce tax time stress. File as early in the season as possible, and mail tax returns directly from the post office. If filing electronically, use a secure network and encrypt.
Stay safe online. Do not respond to emails that appear to be from the IRS, and never click on links! The IRS does not send unsolicited, tax-account related emails and never asks for personal and financial information.
Protect your personal information. Never store important account numbers or data in purses or wallets, or on smartphones. Use a shredder for paper documents, and install a locking mailbox.
Monitor your accounts and review financial statements regularly. Sign up for your free annual credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com.
If you think you’re a victim of tax ID theft, take these steps right away:
• File a report with the local police.
• Contact your bank and credit card companies. Inform credit bureaus and consider freezing your accounts (a credit freeze restricts access to credit reports, making it unlikely that thieves can open new accounts in your name).
• Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 and complete Form 14039.
• Get an IP (Identity Protection) PIN from the IRS so they can verify your identity as they work with you on the theft going forward.
Find out about other frauds and scams and how you can protect yourself. AARP New Hampshire has a corps of volunteer fraud fighters trained to give presentations to community groups across the Granite State. Request a presentation today by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.