Tax refund theft is on the rise. The Federal Trade Commission warns there was a nearly 50% increase in identity theft complaints for the latest year on record, 2015.
Whether you’ve been affected, or want to make sure you never are there are important steps you should know to protect your identity and your money.
During tax season the IRS says it sees a 400% spike in email phishing and malware attacks aimed at stealing your identity and tax return.
“My assistant filed her taxes through the IRS website and the account was hacked, went through a whole bunch of mumbo jumbo, and 2 years later she has still not been paid,” said Cindy Dietzen in Spartanburg.
IRS Enrolled Agent Dan Thomas says he’s also noticed ID theft from scammers scouring obituaries. He says it works because county records don’t get sent to the IRS when someone dies.
“It’s a missing link in there between the IRS and the death certificates that are filed with the county courthouse. The ID thefts are targeting deceased people,” said Thomas.
Filing early can help prevent that scam and other tax fraud, since the IRS only accepts one return per Social Security number.
Phishing scams like those bogus IRS calls are still rampant, but scammers are also now targeting your tax preparer, so make sure they’re doing everything to keep your information safe.
Just like at home, make sure your preparer has anti-malware protection, strong passwords, and uses paper shredders.
Recent ID theft victims should request an IRS Identity Protection PIN. You get a new one each year for three years in the mail, and don’t lose it or your return will be denied. Thomas says it’s happened to several clients and it’s been a headache.
“Now we’ve got to go back to the IRS to resolve the issue with the identity protection and prove to the IRS again so they can reissue them another number so we can file their tax return,” said Thomas.
IF YOU THINK YOU’RE AN I-D THEFT VICTIM:
– Contact the IRS right away and file an ID Theft Affidavit (form 14039). You can call the IRS Identity Protection Specialization Unit (IPSU) at 1-800-908-4490.
– Contact your state tax organization as well
– File early to get refunds in before thieves do.
– Call the Identity Theft Resource Center for no-cost assistance from a victim advisor by calling 888-400-5530.