Federal Trade Commission warns about tax return identity theft

SAN DIEGO - Identity theft involving stolen tax refunds is one of the fastest growing forms of identity theft in the United States.

The Federal Trade Commission held a forum at the downtown San Diego Public Library on Monday to explain what tax identity theft is and how to protect yourself and your family.

Representatives from the Federal Trade Commission, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Attorney’s Office, California Franchise Tax Board, California Attorney General’s Office, San Diego District Attorney’s Office, San Diego City Attorney’s Office, San Diego Police Department, San Diego Sheriff’s Department, San Diego Better Business Bureau, Identity Theft Resource Center all presented at the forum.

According to information provided by the IRS, the Internal Revenue Service is taking additional steps during the 2014 tax season to protect taxpayers and help victims of identity theft and refund fraud.

Stopping refund fraud related to identity theft is a top priority for the tax agency. The IRS is focused on preventing, detecting and resolving identity theft cases as soon as possible. The IRS has more than 3,000 employees working on identity theft cases, which is more than twice the level of a year ago. The agency says they have trained more than 35,000 employees who work with taxpayers to recognize and provide assistance when identity theft occurs.

Taxpayers can encounter identity theft involving their tax returns in several ways. One instance is where identity thieves try filing fraudulent refund claims using another person’s identifying information, which has been stolen. Innocent taxpayers are victimized because their refunds are delayed.

Tips to protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft

  • - Don’t carry your Social Security card or any documents with your SSN or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) on it.
  • - Don’t give a business your SSN or ITIN just because they ask. Give it only when required.
  • - Protect your financial information.
  • - Check your credit report every 12 months.
  • - Secure personal information in your home.
  • - Protect your personal computers by using firewalls, anti-spam/virus software, update security patches and change passwords for Internet accounts.
  • - Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or you are sure you know who you are dealing with.

If your tax records are not currently affected by identity theft, but you believe you may be at risk due to a lost or stolen purse or wallet, questionable credit card activity or credit report, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490, extension 245 (Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. local time; Alaska & Hawaii follow Pacific Time).

If you believe you’re a victim of identity theft

Be alert to possible identity theft if you receive a notice from the IRS or learn from your tax professional that:

  • - 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 you received more wages than you actually earned or your state or federal benefits were reduced or canceled because the agency received information reporting an income change.

If you receive a notice from IRS and you suspect your identity has been used fraudulently, respond immediately by calling the number on the notice.

If you did not receive a notice but believe you’ve been the victim of identity theft, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490, extension 245 right away they can take steps to secure your tax account and match your SSN or ITIN.

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